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1 Kings—From Solomon’s Reignto the Divided Kingdoms of Israel & Judah
The earliest chapters of this historical book recount the transition from David to Solomon as ruler of Israel. Chapters 3-11 focuse on King Solomon’s rise and fall. Here we learn of the construction and dedication of the temple and Solomon’s palace in Jerusalem, along with all his other achievements. We also read about his early commitment to God and His wisdom, and then his decline into idolatry under the influence of foreign wives. Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps & Charts makes an astute observation regarding the balance of 1 Kings: “As a result, the king with the divided heart leaves behind a divided kingdom, and 1 Kings then traces the twin histories of two sets of kings and two nations of disobedient people” (p. 111).
Before the Greek translation of the Old Testament was written, 1 and 2 Kings were a single unit. The book was broken into two parts first in the Septuagint, then in the Latin Vulgate, and finally in our English translations.
Although this book mentions three primary sources—“The Book of the Acts of Solomon” (1 Kings 11:41), “The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel” (14:19 & 15:7) and “The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah” (14:29 & 15:7), it is not known for certain who compiled the records of 1 and 2 Kings. Jewish tradition assigns authorship to Jeremiah, due to the prophetic nature of these historical accounts. In support of this idea, we find almost identical renderings of events recorded in 2 Kings 25 and Jeremiah 40-41 & 52.
1 Kings Chapter 1
As an old man, David’s circulation was apparently adversely affected, since the poor fellow was unable to keep warm, no matter how many robes or blankets they put on him (1 Kings 1:1). Someone suggested they find a lovely young virgin to care for him and sleep next to the king each night to share her body heat (v. 2). A nationwide search yielded Abishag, a young lady from Shunem in the territory of Issachar, who served as David’s attendant by day and his sleeping companion at night (3-4). This passage makes a point of informing the reader that King David was not sexually intimate with this girl, who was probably younger than his own daughters.
It amazes me how history can repeat itself, and yet so often we fail to recognize the pattern until after the events have played out. Verse 5 tells us, “Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, ‘I will be king’; and he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him.” David’s son Absalom had done this very thing before staging his coup, yet David didn’t confront his younger son when all the signs indicated he had the very same intentions (6)! Like Absalom, Adonijah was quite handsome, and he soon enlisted the aid of two of David’s leading men, Joab and Abiathar, to help him gain the throne (6-7).
The more godly leaders in David’s realm—including Zadok, Benaiah, Shemei, Rei and the mighty men loyal to their king—were not consulted (8). The prince held a feast at En Rogel, not far from Jerusalem, and invited his brothers and all the leading men in his father’s service—except for the aforementioned individuals and Solomon (9-10).
Nathan went and told Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, what was going on and urged her to go and talk to the king about it, if she wanted to save herself and her son (11-13). He intended to come in on the queen’s heels and confirm what she was saying to David (14). When Bathsheba did so, she reminded David of his promise to install her son Solomon as his successor and warned that Adonijah was sure to have the two of them executed or imprisoned as soon as David died, if he allowed Adonijah to have his way (15-21). Nathan, too, came in and informed David how almost everyone else in the kingdom was toasting Adonijah, saying “Long live the king!” yet he, Zadok, Benaiah and Solomon had not been invited to the party (22-26). Nathan asked, “Has this thing been done by my lord the king, and you have not told your servant who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?” (27).
This news stirred David to action. He summoned his wife back to his room and swore to her again that Solomon would be king (28-31). Then he called for Zadok, Nathan and Benaiah to take a contingent of men with Solomon astride his own mule to Gihon, and there anoint him and blow the trumpet, declaring him as king (32-34). Then they were to bring him back and install the young man on David’s throne, since David was appointing Solomon as the new ruler over Judah and Israel (35).
“Amen!” Benaiah replied, expressing his desire that YHWH would agree with David’s choice (36). He added, “As the LORD has been with my lord the king, even so may He be with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord King David” (37).
So the three leaders took David’s son, accompanied by his personal bodyguards to the appointed place and anointed Solomon as ordered (38-39). So loud was the celebration—with flutes and trumpets and those in attendance shouting, “Long live King Solomon!”—that the earth seemed to shake and the ruckus was heard miles away in En Rogel (40-41).
Shortly thereafter Jonathan, Abiathar’s son, came and reported to Adonijah and company that David had appointed Solomon king (42-46). He said David had bowed on his bed and worshiped God, happy that he had lived to witness Solomon’s installment on his throne (47-48). Hearing this news, Adonijah’s party broke up in a hurry (49). The guests were all afraid to associate with the pretender to the throne, while Adonijah ran for the altar and refused to let go of its horns unless Solomon gave his word he wouldn’t execute his rival (50-51).
When he was informed of the situation, Solomon replied graciously, “If he proves himself a worthy man, not one hair of him shall fall to the earth; but if wickedness is found in him, he shall die” (52). When Adonijah was brought before the new king, he bowed, and Solomon simply ordered him to go home (53).
1 Kings Chapter 2
When David knew he was dying, he had a talk with his son Solomon: “I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man” (1 Kings 2:1-2). He told Solomon to be careful to observe everything written in the Law of Moses, so that he would prosper and God would grant His promise to keep one of David’s descendants on the throne of Israel, so long as they followed Him (3-4).
He reminded Solomon of the way Joab had assassinated Abner and Amasa (c.f.—2 Sam. 3:22ff & 20:4-13), thus shedding “the blood of war in peacetime,” and urged Solomon to make sure the general paid for his wanton murders (1 Kings 2:5-6). He told his son to show the same kindness to the heirs of Barzillai the Gileadite that he had showed David and the other refugees during Absalom’s take-over of the kingdom (v. 7). Regarding that same time period in Israel’s history, David brought up the cursing of Shimei the Benjaminite, and told Solomon to make sure he didn’t get away with it, even though David had promised he wouldn’t kill the man himself (8-9).
Sometime thereafter, David died and was buried in the City of David—after reigning seven years in Hebron, plus 33 years in Jerusalem, for a total of forty years (10-11). Having already been installed on the throne of Israel by his father, Solomon’s authority was now firmly established (12).
Even though Solomon had dealt graciously with his scheming brother (see 1 Kings 1:50-53), Adonijah did not give up his plans to take the throne. Instead, he approached Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, and asked her to petition his brother for the hand of Abishag of Shunem as his wife (1 Kings 2:13-17).
To those of us raised under a democratic-republic form of government, this seems a harmless enough request—as it did to Bathsheba, who agreed to speak to the king (v. 18). But careful consideration of Adonijah’s words should have given her a clue: “You know that the kingdom was mine, and all Israel had set their expectations on me, that I should reign” (15a). By that Adonijah meant he was the next oldest son [Actually, Abigail’s son Chileab was the eldest after Amnon died, but he may have passed away or had no ambitions for the kingdom.], and he had cultivated the expectation of his countrymen that he should reign, even though he knew his dad and YHWH had designated Solomon. Yet to give the appearance of respect for God and his father’s choice, Adonijah added, “However, the kingdom has been turned over, and has become my brother’s; for it was his from the LORD” (15b).
Solomon didn’t need this bit of inside information to smell a rat, however. He knew that monarchs often gained ascendancy to the throne by marrying the wife of a former king. Even though Abishag had never been intimate with David, the people would wonder if this meant Adonijah should be considered next in line for the throne. Therefore, when his mother made this request, Solomon said, “Now why do you ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him the kingdom also—for he is my older brother—for him, and for Abiathar the priest, and for Joab the son of Zeruiah” (21-22). So even though he had said he would not refuse a request from her (19-20), he did not grant this petition in his brother’s behalf [quite possibly because he wanted to marry Abishag himself, as some have drawn from the words of the king in The Song of Solomon]. In fact, he vowed to have his treacherous brother executed that very day, and sent Benaiah to carry out the deed (23-25).
Next, he deposed Abiathar as priest for his part in attempting to install Adonijah as king. He sent Abiathar home to Anathoth, saying he deserved to die for this treasonous act, yet “because you carried the ark of the Lord GOD before my father David, and because you were afflicted every time my father was afflicted,” he was sparing his life (26). The historian who recorded this account did note that this was in fulfillment of the prophecy regarding the family of Eli, which we read about in 1 Samuel 2:27-36.
When Joab heard that all of Adonijah’s co-conspirators were being picked off, he headed for the tabernacle and took hold of the altar in fear of his own life (1 Kings 2:28). Benaiah was again dispatched to execute the former general, and eventually slew him in the court of the portable worship center, since Joab refused to budge (vv. 29-31 & 34). Solomon said it was the man’s own fault, since Joab had “struck down two men more righteous and better than he” without David’s authorization, when he killed Abner and Amasa (32). He laid a curse on Joab’s family, while invoking a blessing on his own (33). When the deed was done and Joab was buried, Benaiah was promoted to the position of general of Israel’s army, while Zadok was made high priest instead of Abiathar (35).
Solomon’s next order of business was Shimei. He knew it would not be prudent to execute the man outright, since his father had promised not to kill him, so he laid on the Benjaminite the following condition for his continued survival:
“Build yourself a house in Jerusalem and dwell there, and do not go out from there anywhere. For it shall be, on the day you go out and cross the Brook Kidron, know for certain you shall surely die; your blood shall be on your own head.” (36-37)
Shimei thought that seemed reasonable enough and complied for three years, until some slaves ran away to Gath and he went after them (38-40). When he returned, Solomon called the Benjaminite in and reminded him of the terms they had agreed to, as well as what he had done to Solomon’s father (41-44). He said Shimei had brought evil on himself through his own wickedness, while Solomon would be blessed, and then the king had Benaiah execute him, as well (44-46a).
With all these threats eliminated, “the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon” (46b).
1 Kings Chapter 3
Solomon made a treaty with Pharaoh King of Egypt, and to seal the deal, took the king’s daughter as his wife. Psalm 45 may very well have been written to commemorate this occasion. Those who would make Solomon an indisputable hero in Hebrew history have suggested this woman was an Egyptian proselyte of the Hebrew religion. However, three clues in the Scriptures would indicate otherwise:
- The exclusion of this bit of information from 2 Chronicles. Ezra had a tendency to censor a lot of incriminating comments about the “good kings” of Judah. The fact that he does not mention this alliance and ensuing marriage hints at his disapproval of the act.
- The fact that 1 Kings 11:1-2 lumps the daughter of Pharaoh with the other foreign wives that led Solomon into idolatry is a good indicator she, too, did not stray far from her pagan roots.
- The fact that he brought her into the City of David, but built her a separate house might indicate there was something amiss (1 Kings 3:1 & 7:8).
Verse 2 tells us the people had continued to offer sacrifices on the high places in Israel, since there was no central worship center. Not only that, but Solomon did this, too (v. 3). Still, we are told he loved YHWH and did everything else his father had taught him about the Lord.
In proof of this statement, we are told that the king went to the tabernacle in Gibeon to worship YHWH and made a thousand burnt offerings at the altar there (4). That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream and asked what He should give him (5). Solomon answered,
“You have shown great mercy to Your servant David my father, because he walked before You in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You; You have continued this great kindness for him, and You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day” (6).
But Solomon admitted, “I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in” (7). Overwhelmed by the vast number of people he was in charge of, Solomon knew he was going to need help; therefore he prayed, “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong” (1 Kings 3:9, NIV).
This answer pleased YHWH immensely (10). Like a proud papa, He replied,
“Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 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.” (1 Kings 3:11-12, NIV)
Not only that, but God said He would give Solomon what he hadn’t requested—riches and honor beyond that of any of his contemporaries (13)! He also offered long life, provided the king would walk in the ways of his father, David (14). When Solomon awoke and realized it was a dream from the Lord, he returned to Jerusalem from the tent of meeting in Gibeon and made offerings before the Ark of the Covenant, as well, hosting a huge feast for all his staff (15).
The first test of Solomon’s God-given wisdom came in the form of two prostitutes who shared a house and had each given birth about the same time (16-18). One woman rolled over onto her baby during the night and suffocated the child, so she placed her dead son next to the other woman and took her little boy for herself (19-20). When the woman telling this story discovered the switch, she brought her housemate to Solomon’s court, where the two women went back and forth, each claiming the living child as her own (21-22).
To settle the dispute, Solomon called for a sword and ordered that the little boy be cut in two, so that the pieces could be divided among the two women (23-25). Horrified at the thought of her son being killed, the first woman begged the king to let the other woman have the baby; while the second woman said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!” (26). In that instant, the king recalled his order and had the child given to the woman who had compassion toward the baby, knowing she was his real mother (27).
Word of this wise ruling spread quickly throughout the kingdom, adding to the people’s respect of Solomon, “for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice” (28).
1 Kings Chapter 4
The first part of this chapter lists Solomon’s officials—including Benaiah as his military general, Zadok and his son Azariah as priests, as well as some new men serving as scribes, historian, advisors and supervisors of the labor force (1 Kings 4:1-6). He also had twelve regional governors responsible for providing food for the king’s household for one month out of the year (v. 7). Of these twelve individuals, two were sons-in-law of the king, having married Solomon’s daughters, Taphath and Basemath (11 & 15).
Each day, the governor in charge of the provisions for the month had to make sure Solomon’s servants had “150 bushels of choice flour and 300 bushels of meal, ten oxen from the fattening pens, twenty pasture-fed cattle, one hundred sheep or goats, as well as deer, gazelles, roebucks, and choice fowl” to put on the king’s table (1 Kings 4:22-23, NLT). Multiply all that by 30, and you’re talking a lot of food! However, Solomon was good enough to spread the burden around equally among the territory he ruled from the Euphrates to Gaza and from Dan to Beersheba (24-25). In addition to the food for the king’s household and guests, they also provided barley and straw for the horses—all 40,000 stalls full of them, with 12,000 horsemen to care for them (26-28)!
During Solomon’s reign, the Israelites enjoyed unprecedented peace and prosperity—being “as numerous as the sand by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking and rejoicing” (20-21 & 25). Their king excelled all the wise men of the East and Egypt in wisdom and understanding (29-30). He was wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite [author of Psalm 89], or Heman, Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol (31). Solomon spoke 3,000 proverbs and wrote 1,005 songs (32). He was an authority on trees, animals, birds, fish and other creatures (33). So famous was the king for his wisdom, that dignitaries came from all over the world to see and hear him (34)!
1 Kings Chapter 5
Hiram king of Tyre, an old friend of David’s, sent envoys to Solomon when he heard the young man was reigning in his father’s place (1 Kings 5:1; c.f.—2 Sam. 5:11). Solomon, in turn, sent a letter to Hiram telling him how David had wanted to build a temple for YHWH, but was too busy subduing the nations around him (vv. 2-3). Now that Solomon was enjoying the resulting peace, he was ready to build a house for God, as the Lord had promised his father (4-5). Therefore, he offered to pay for Hiram to send men to cut cedar from Lebanon for the project, since no one in Israel was as skilled at cutting timber as the Sidonians (6).
Hiram was thrilled with this proposal, remembering the arrangement he’d had with Solomon’s predecessor, he said, “Blessed be the LORD this day, for He has given David a wise son over this great people!” (7). He wrote back that he would have his men cut cedar and cypress logs and float them over the sea in rafts to whatever location Solomon designated, where they could be broken up and taken to the construction site (8-9). In return, Solomon could provide agricultural goods to provide for the royal family in Tyre.
So in return for all the timber Solomon needed, he sent Hiram “an annual payment of 100,000 bushels of wheat for his household and 110,000 gallons of olive oil” (1 Kings 5:10-11, NLT). As yet another result of the wisdom God gave him, Solomon enjoyed the friendship of his neighbor to the north, and the two kings forged a treaty of peace (v. 12).
Solomon conscripted a labor force of 30,000 men, divided into three groups, which rotated to serve a month at a time in Lebanon and two months at home (13-14). There were another 70,000 laborers who carried burdens and 80,000 who quarried stone in the mountains (15). 3,300 supervisors were assigned to direct all these workers (16). The combined labor force of Solomon’s builders, Hiram’s men and the Gebalites [men from Gebal in Phoenicia] laid the foundation of the temple using three different grades of stone, as directed by the king (17-18).
1 Kings Chapter 6
480 years after leaving Egypt, around April or May of Solomon’s fourth year on the throne, construction began on the temple (1 Kings 6:1). According to our earlier calculations based on genealogical information in the first two books of the Bible [See the chart entitled, “Ages of the Patriarchs and Earth before the Exodus.”], the earth was approximately 2,569 years old at the time of the Exodus. If we add another 480 years, that means the temple was begun 3,049 years after the earth was created. That’s a long time for YHWH to wait for a permanent worship center to be built!
The dimensions of the main worship center were 30 x 90 feet, with a height of 45 feet (v. 2). A foyer 30 x 15 feet was attached to the front of the building (3). There were rectangular windows set in the walls all around (4).
A complex of apartments was built adjacent to the temple, but not actually touching it. Unlike what we would expect, this structure was constructed in a reverse stair-step configuration, with its smallest rooms (7½ feet wide) at the bottom, wider compartments (9 feet) on the second story, and the largest rooms at the top (10½ feet). In order to prevent the necessity of inserting support beams for these structures into the walls of the temple, the masons made narrow ledges along the walls of the temple, upon which the beams were rested on the outside (5-6). The upper stories were reached through stairs between each level (8). Each story was 7½ feet tall, which would’ve made the completed building shorter than the temple itself (10).
This may have been one of the earliest pre-fab buildings in history, since Solomon did not want the holy district filled with the dust and noise of construction. All the stones were fitted and dressed at the quarry and then laid out at the temple site, “so that no hammer or chisel or any iron tool was heard in the temple while it was being built” (7).
YHWH was pleased with the work, and told Solomon, “…if you walk in My statutes, execute My judgments, keep all My commandments, and walk in them, then I will perform My word with you, which I spoke to your father David. And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake My people…” (12-13).
The Most Holy Place of the temple consisted of an inner room constructed like a cube made of cedar, with measurements of 30 feet in every dimension (16, 19 & 20). This left another room measuring 60 x 30 feet at the front of the building, which was the Holy Place (17). The interior walls and ceiling of the temple were paneled with cedar carved with a beautiful floral motif, palm trees and cherubim; while the floor was made of cypress, so not a stone was showing (9, 15, 18 & 29).
Solomon had two 15-foot angels carved of olive wood. Each of their wings stretched 7½ feet, so they touched the walls and met in the center of the room. The angels stood at the rear of the temple, facing forward. Towering over the Ark of the Covenant, they must’ve made quite an impression on anyone privileged to enter the Most Holy Place! (23-27)
Two doors of olive wood, carved with the same designs as the wall, separated the inner and outer sanctuaries (31-32). The outer doors were made of two panels each of carved cypress that opened as folding doors (34-35).
Everything inside the temple—including the altar of incense, the walls, floors, cherubim, doors, and furnishings—was overlaid with pure gold (20-22, 28, 32 & 35). No doubt, the reason for all this precious metal was to reflect the glory and majesty of YHWH, who intended to inhabit it!
There was also an inner court constructed around the temple complex of three rows of cut stones and a row of cedar beams (36). The time from the fourth year of Solomon’s reign when the foundation was laid, until the completion of the temple complex in the eleventh year, was seven years all together (37-38). What an undertaking, and what a magnificent place it must’ve been! But what a pity that no one but the priests and construction workers ever got to see it in all its royal beauty.
1 Kings Chapter 7
Solomon took an additional thirteen years building his palace complex, so the royal city was under construction even longer (1 Kings 7:1)! Solomon’s palace was not as magnificently crafted as the temple, but the buildings were bigger.
The first structure, called the “House of the Forest of Lebanon,” was 150 x 75 x 45 feet and featured:
- four rows of cedar columns, supporting cedar beams
- a cedar roof supported by forty-five rafters that rested on three rows of pillars, fifteen in each row
- three rows of windows facing each other on each side of the building (probably indicating it was three stories tall)
- rectangular doorways in sets of three, facing each other (vv. 2-5).
Another building, called the “Hall of Pillars” was 75 x 45 feet, with a porch covered with a canopy set on pillars (6). The “Hall of Judgment,” where Solomon’s throne was located was entirely paneled in cedar, as was his royal residence and the house of Pharaoh’s daughter (7-8). Like the temple and its courts, all the buildings in the palace complex and their courtyard were made of costly cut stones—some as large as 12 or 15 feet long (9-12)! What a fortune this all must have cost to build!
Solomon brought a fellow named Hiram (not the same as the king of Tyre) to Jerusalem to create the bronze articles for the temple (13). According to 1 Kings 7:14, this man was “the son of a widow from the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a bronze worker.” 2 Chronicles 2:13-14 says his mother was “a woman from the daughters of Dan” and that his name was Huram. My guess is either the man’s mother was a Danite who had married into the tribe of Naphtali or vice-versa; or perhaps she was from one of the tribes, living in the territory of the other, to have caused this confusion. Both settlements were near the kingdom of Tyre and Sidon. As always, forced to choose one or the other, I’d go with the account closest to the time of the actual events, which would be 1 Kings.
At any rate, this skilled bronze worker cast two massive pillars, 27 feet tall and 18 feet in circumference, with ornamental capitals 7½ feet tall on top—for a total of 34½ feet in height (1 Kings 7:14-16). These pillars must’ve been a sight to see, made of gleaming bronze topped with beautiful Corinthian-style capitals adorned with latticework, woven chains and two rows of pomegranates (vv. 17-20). The two pillars were stationed at opposite ends of the entrance to the foyer. The one on the right was named Jachin, which means “He established,” while the one on the left was named after Solomon’s great-great-grandfather, Boaz, meaning “strength” (21-22).
Next, Hiram cast a huge bronze water tank 15 feet across and 7½ feet tall, with a circumference of 45 feet, decorated in the same floral motif found inside the temple (23-24). This rested on a base made of twelve bronze oxen facing outward, three abreast in each of the four cardinal directions (25). The walls of the tank were about three inches thick, flared at the top like a cup, and shaped like a lily blossom. It could hold about 11,000 gallons of water (26).
Hiram also made ten identical carts six feet square and 4½ feet tall, with side panels braced with crossbars, decorated with carved lions, oxen, and cherubim (27-29 & 35-37). The top of each cart had a circular pedestal 1½ feet deep and 2¼ feet across, decorated with wreaths (31). They could be moved about on bronze wheels of the same style found on chariots—each about 2¼ feet high (30 & 32-33). For each stand, he cast a tank six feet across that could hold 220 gallons of water (38). He arranged five carts to the right of the house of worship, and five to the left, all on the southeast side (39).
Finally, he made all the smaller bronze implements used for the sacrificial rituals (40). Everything was made of burnished bronze and cast in the clay soil in the plains along the Jordan River (40-46). There were so many items made of the semi-precious metal, that no one bothered to calculate the weight of it all (47).
When these were all done, Solomon added it to the articles of gold for the temple:
- the golden incense altar
- a golden table for the showbread
- ten golden lamp stands—five on each side of the Holy Place—plus all their golden wick-trimmers and snuffers
- bowls, ladles, censors and other golden utensils
- even hinges of gold for the doors (48-50)!
When everything was finished, Solomon brought it all in and had it set in place. Then he filled the treasuries of the temple with all the other articles of gold and silver his father and the other leaders had dedicated (51).
1 Kings Chapter 8
Solomon called all the elders, tribal leaders and family heads together to help bring the ark from the City of David to the temple (1 Kings 8:1). So during the seventh month of that year, they all assembled, and the priests and Levites took down the tabernacle of meeting with all its furnishings, as well as the Ark of the Covenant (vv. 2-4). Meanwhile Solomon and the rest of Israel were busy sacrificing more sheep and oxen than anyone could count (5).
When the priests set the ark under the giant cherubim in the Most Holy Place, the poles were so long, they could be seen extending into the Holy Place in front of the inner room, but not outside the building (6-8). By that time, the only thing left in the ark was the two stone tablets with the Ten Commandments inscribed on them (9). The jar of manna and the rod of Aaron which YHWH had instructed Moses to enclose in the holy box had apparently rotted away, been disposed of or were misplaced by that time (See Ex. 16:33 & Num. 17:10). Another possibility might be that the Philistines or someone from Beth Shemesh took the artifacts, when the ark was captured and then returned (1 Sam. 5-6).
When the religious leaders exited the temple, “the cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not continue ministering,” so thick was the glory of God engulfing the place (1 Kings 8:10-11)! Significantly, this was during the Feast of Tabernacles, which commemorates how YHWH “tabernacled,” or dwelt, with His people during their wanderings in the wilderness. Now He was coming to dwell among them in the temple Solomon had built for the Lord.
Probably after scraping his jaw off the ground, Solomon declared: “The LORD said He would dwell in the dark cloud. I have surely built You an exalted house, and a place for You to dwell in forever” (12-13).
Then he turned to the congregation and said, “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who spoke with His mouth to my father David, and with His hand has fulfilled it” (15). He related the story about King David wanting to build a permanent home for the Lord, but God designated his son instead (16-19). Now God had made all His promises to David come true, by putting Solomon on the throne and allowing him to construct the building they were standing in front of (20-21).
Then he turned around and stood before the altar with hands uplifted and prayed: “LORD God of Israel, there is no God in heaven above or on earth below like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts” (23). He again acknowledged how the Lord had fulfilled much of what He had promised to David, but asked the Lord to confirm it all—including the part about maintaining David’s dynasty, so long as his successors walked in God’s ways (24-26).
In verse 27 he marveled: “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!” Nevertheless, he asked God to keep watch over that place and pay attention whenever anyone prayed toward the temple which bore His name (28-30). Then Solomon listed several scenarios as examples of when he hoped God would hear and respond:
- When one person wrongs another, may God punish the guilty and vindicate the innocent (31-32).
- When the Israelites sin and suffer defeat by their enemies, may God grant His forgiveness to those who repent, and may He bring the captives back home (33-34).
- When God sends a drought and the people confess their sin, may the Lord to forgive them and send rain (35-36).
- If famine, disease, mildew, insects or other invaders attack their crops or cities, may God intervene when the people pray, so they learn to fear and trust Him (37-40).
- Whenever foreigners come and make a request, may God to grant it, so they, too, will know YHWH is God (41-43).
- In the midst of battle, when the soldiers cry out for help, may God take up their cause and fight for them (44-45).
Whatever the circumstances, Solomon asked the Lord to be merciful and forgive His people, since He had rescued them from Egypt and “separated them from among all the peoples of the earth” as His own inheritance (46-53).
At some point during this prayer, Solomon had dropped to his knees (54). Now he rose to his feet again and blessed everyone, saying: “Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised…” (55-56). He reminded them that not one of the good things YHWH had promised through Moses had failed to come upon the people of Israel.
“May the LORD our God be with us, as He was with our fathers. May He not leave us nor forsake us, that He may incline our hearts to Himself, to walk in all His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, which He commanded our fathers” (57-58).
Solomon prayed for God to “maintain the cause of His servant and…His people Israel, as each day may require, that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no other.” (59-60). Then he admonished the people to stay true to God and His word, so they could continue to enjoy His blessings (61).
With that, the king and his subjects slaughtered 22,000 bulls and 120,000 sheep as peace offerings to dedicate the temple (62-63). There were so many sacrificial portions to be burned, that the new altar was not big enough, so Solomon consecrated the pavement in front of the temple for that purpose (64)! The Feast of Tabernacles and the dedication of the new worship center went on for fourteen days (65). On the eighth day of the second week, the people were dismissed, and everyone went home thrilled with the king and what God had accomplished through him (66).
1 Kings Chapter 9
After all this, the Lord appeared to Solomon again in a dream, like He had done years before in Gibeon (1 Kings 9:1-2). YHWH informed the king that He had heard Solomon’s prayer and had consecrated the house he had built for God, promising, “My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually”(v. 3). Furthermore, as long as Solomon walked in integrity and obedience to the Lord, as his father David had, God was committed to fulfill His promise to maintain a dynasty in Israel through Solomon (4-5). If, however, Solomon and his sons turned from YHWH to serve false gods, He promised to evict Israel from the land and leave the temple desolate (6-9). What an awesome responsibility this placed upon the shoulders of these leaders
Twenty years after Solomon started his construction projects, he presented Hiram with twenty cities in the land of Galilee as a thank you gift for all his help building the temple and the palace complex (10-11). When Hiram toured the cities, he was so unimpressed by them that he called the area Cabul, which means “good for nothing” (12-13)! Nevertheless, he sent Solomon another 120 talents [9,000 lbs.] of gold (14).
In addition to the temple and the royal palace, Solomon had his labor force build the Millo [some sort of landfill] and the wall in Jerusalem, Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer (15). Gezer had come into his possession when Pharaoh conquered the city, killed its Canaanite residents, burned it, and then presented it to his daughter as a wedding dowry (16). Not the most romantic present, but practical, at least. Solomon also built several other cities in Judah, as well as storage cities, military outposts, chariot cities, etc., in Lebanon and other areas under his dominion (17-19).
He pressed into service all the surviving Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites who had not been exterminated as God had commanded Israel (20-21). He didn’t enslave his own people, but commissioned them as military officers of various kinds (22). He also had 550 Israeli foremen hired to supervise the forced laborers (23).
Three times a year [that is, during the three national feasts (c.f.—2 Chr. 8:12-13)], Solomon made the prescribed sacrifices and offerings at the temple (24). He built a fleet of ships at Ezion Geber near Elath at the Red Sea (26). These were manned by sailors from both Tyre and Israel to import gold [420 talents, or over 16 tons] from Ophir (27-28).
1 Kings Chapter 10
From her kingdom somewhere in the Middle East or Africa, the Queen of Sheba heard about Solomon’s wealth and wisdom and decided to come see for herself whether it was all true (1 Kings 10:1). She arrived with a huge retinue of camels laden with spices, gold and precious gems (v. 2). When she plied the king with questions, he answered every one without hesitation to her astonishment and satisfaction (2-3). Hearing his wisdom, seeing the magnificent buildings he’d constructed, the food at his table, the organization of his staff and the way Solomon went to worship, the woman was speechless (4-5).
The Queen of Sheba told Solomon that everything she had heard about him in her own land was true—and then some—yet she had not believed the reports until she saw it all with her own eyes (6-7). Then she exclaimed,
“How happy these people must be! What a privilege for your officials to stand here day after day, listening to your wisdom! The LORD your God is great indeed! He delights in you and has placed you on the throne of Israel. Because the LORD loves Israel with an eternal love, he has made you king so you can rule with justice and righteousness.” (1 Kings 10:8-9, NLT)
The queen presented Solomon with 120 talents [9,000 lbs.] of gold, jewels, and more spices than anyone had ever seen (10). Solomon, in turn, gave her whatever she desired from his treasuries (13). Yet, with the fleet returning with gold, timber and precious stones from Ophir, his coffers were not in the least diminished by his trade with the queen (11). He used the imported almug wood to build steps for the temple and his palace, along with harps and other stringed instruments to be used in worship (12). No comparable shipment of this rare wood was received in Israel again.
Annually, the King of Israel received 666 talents [about 25 tons] of gold—not including what was collected from taxes, tribute, levies, etc., from merchants and rulers under Solomon’s authority (14-15)! From this, the king had fashioned 300 large shields and 300 smaller shields which were made of beaten gold and plated with even more gold. These magnificent pieces were displayed in the House of the Forest of Lebanon (16-17). To further impress his guests, Solomon had a beautiful throne made of ivory and gold carved with lions, with six steps flanked by a dozen lions leading up to it (18-20). There was nothing like this majestic seat found in any other kingdom on the earth! All of Solomon’s dishes were made of gold, since silver was too common to be considered valuable in those days (21). In addition to their shipments of gold, Solomon and Hiram’s ships brought silver, ivory, apes and monkeys from their trade in Africa once every three years (22).
Since “King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom,” folks traveled from all the nations to hear the profound things God had put into his heart (23-24). Like the Queen of Sheba, each dignitary brought with him a gift of silver, gold, clothing, armor, spices, horses or mules—thus further enriching his treasuries (25). Verse 27 says, “The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and he made cedar trees as abundant as the sycamores which are in the lowland.”
He gathered 1,400 chariots and 12,000 charioteers, which were stationed in Jerusalem and at strategic locations in his kingdom (26). He had agents go to Egypt and Cilicia to procure horses and chariots for him, but also to sell to other kings in his dominion (28-29).
If we study the Law regarding kings of Israel found in Deuteronomy 17:14-20, we find strict prohibitions against the amassment of horses [especially from Egypt] and precious metals. With his accumulation of all this wealth and livestock, Solomon was in violation of these two rules.
1 Kings Chapter 11
We find yet another violation of God’s code of conduct for Israel’s kings in the first part of this chapter. Verses 1-2 inform us that Solomon “loved many foreign women” besides the Egyptian princess—including “Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites—from the nations of whom the LORD had said to the children of Israel, ‘You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.’”
So, not only did the king disregard Deuteronomy 17:17, he also flouted Exodus 34:16 and Deuteronomy 7:3-4. Apparently, he was so busy writing proverbs, poems, songs and books of wisdom and entertaining foreign emissaries, that he forgot to daily read God’s word, as Deuteronomy 17:18-20 prescribed for Israel’s kings to remain grounded in the faith. As is often the case with ultra-intellectuals, Solomon became so convinced of his own wisdom that he felt he was above the expectations of God imposed on other ‘ordinary’ people.
Eventually, the 700 royal wives and 300 concubines managed to turn the heart of Solomon away from YHWH and into idolatry (1 Kings 11:3-4). Not only did he worship Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom the detestable god of the Ammonites, but Solomon also built shines for Chemosh of Moab and Molech of Ammon on a hill just outside of Jerusalem (vv. 5-7)! These were false gods that required human sacrifices, against which YHWH had sternly warned His people in Leviticus 18:21 and 20:1-5, requiring the death penalty for anyone who worshiped them! 1 Kings 11:8 says Solomon also burned incense and made sacrifices to all the gods of his foreign wives. One wonders how that sat with his few Hebrew wives—including Abishag, for whom he had originally expressed such affection. If only he had stuck with her and obeyed God in limiting his harem to a few Israelite women!
YHWH is such a patient God. He put up with Solomon ignoring His instructions about stockpiling wealth and collecting horses and chariots. But when the king ignored God’s commands about marrying foreign women, who lured him away from the Lord, that was the last straw. “So the LORD became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the LORD God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice,” and had warned him about this very thing (v. 9-10).
As a consequence of Solomon’s disobedience, the Lord said He would “tear the kingdom from you and give it to your servant” (11). However, God said He wouldn’t carry out this plan during Solomon’s lifetime; neither would He take all twelve tribes from the royal family. Instead, He would give ten of the tribes of Israel to someone else and keep two tribes for Solomon’s son, in keeping with His promise to David “and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen” (12-13). Another consequence of the king’s apostasy was that the Lord stripped away Israel’s peace and raised up enemies against them.
The first was a man named Hadad, a prince from the royal house of Edom, which Joab had almost managed to wipe out during David’s administration (14-16). He was just a boy, when Joab slaughtered all the males in his homeland, and had been carried to safety in Egypt by some of his father’s servants (17). Pharaoh took a liking to the Edomite prince and gave him not only a home and an allowance, but eventually offered his sister-in-law in marriage to Hadad (18-19). The sister of Queen Tahpenes bore Hadad a son, who was brought up in Pharaoh’s own house with the children of the king of Egypt (20). When Hadad learned of David and Joab’s death, he got permission from Pharaoh to return to his homeland, where he apparently caused all manner of trouble for Solomon (21-22).
A second thorn in Solomon’s side was a Syrian by the name of Rezon, who had broken away from Hadadezer king of Zobah, whom David and his army had defeated in 2 Samuel 8:3-9 (1 Kings 11:23). Rezon gathered a band of raiders and took up residence in Damascus of Syria (v. 24). He reigned in defiance of Solomon all the days of his administration (25).
Finally, there was a servant by the name of Jeroboam from Ephraim who rebelled against Solomon (26). While Solomon was building the Millo and repairing the walls around Jerusalem, he noticed what a hard worker Jeroboam was, so he put him in charge of the laborers from the family of Joseph (27-28).
The prophet Ahijah intercepted Jeroboam one day on his way out of the city (29). While they were alone in the field, the prophet tore his new coat into twelve pieces and gave ten to Jeroboam, saying, “Take for yourself ten pieces, for thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: ‘Behold, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and will give ten tribes to you’” (30-31). The prophet explained that God was tearing all but the tribe of Judah and one other tribe from Solomon because of the king’s idolatry (32-33). The only reason He was giving Solomon’s son any of the kingdom at all was for the sake of David, who had been faithful to obey God, that he’d always have a representative in Jerusalem (34-36).
God promised to make Jeroboam king over Israel and to build a dynasty for him like that of David—provided he did what God told him (37-38). Meanwhile, the Lord intended to “afflict the descendants of David” for a season (39). When Solomon found out, he tried to kill Jeroboam, but the Ephraimite fled to Egypt and was sheltered by Pharaoh Shishak until Solomon’s death (40).
Having reigned for forty years in Jerusalem over all Israel, Solomon died and was buried in the City of David (42-43). He was succeeded by his son Rehoboam. The historian who wrote this book cited something called The Book of the Acts of Solomon as a source for further info about what Solomon said and did (41).
1 Kings Chapter 12
Rehoboam went to Shechem, where he expected the Israelites to perform some ceremony to make him king (1 Kings 12:1). The people also summoned Jeroboam from Egypt (vv. 2-3). When everyone had gathered, the people addressed the would-be king, explaining that a condition for them submitting to him was that he not be so harsh as his father Solomon had been (4). Rehoboam told them to meet back at the same place three days later, and he would give his answer (5).
The king’s son first consulted the old men who used to advise his father (6). They wisely told him to lighten up on the people, so they would serve him forever (7). The idea of sweet-talking his subjects and serving them did not sit well with Rehoboam, so the young man consulted his peers, instead (8-9).
The young men who had grown up with him replied, “Tell these people…‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions’” (1 Kings 12:10-11, NIV). Unfortunately, Rehoboam took the advice of the brash young men and talked tough to the Israelites (12-14).
Because he refused to listen to his subjects, the majority of the people rejected his leadership, saying,
“What share have we in David?
We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse.
To your tents, O Israel!
Now, see to your own house, O David!” (v. 16).
They went home disgusted and made Jeroboam their king, in fulfillment of YHWH’s prophecy through Ahijah (15 & 19-20). Rehoboam was left with only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, along with whatever other men and women were living in that territory (17). When he tried to send Adoram, his chief tax collector to the northern tribes, they stoned the poor fellow to death, so Rehoboam fled in his chariot to the safety of Jerusalem (18).
When Rehoboam raised an army of 180,000 men of Judah and Benjamin to force the other tribes to submit to his authority, the Lord sent the prophet Shemaiah to tell him not to fight their relatives, since the whole thing was His doing (21-24). Surprisingly, the king and his men obeyed and stayed home.
The new king, Jeroboam got to thinking that if the people continued to go to Jerusalem to worship three times a year, they might end up serving Rehoboam after all and decide to kill him (25-27). So to prevent that, he made two golden calves and set them up in Bethel and Dan as gods in place of YHWH (28-29). He erected shrines on those high places and appointed priests from every tribe and class in Israel (31). And then he instituted feasts to coincide with the traditional holidays of Israel, telling the people they need not travel all the way to Jerusalem, when they could worship their gods at home (32-33). Repeating the sin of Israel from Exodus 32:1-6 all over again, Jeroboam led the people of the northern tribes into apostasy from which they never recovered!
[The man of God] cried out against the altar by the word of the LORD: “O altar, altar! This is what the LORD says: ‘A son named Josiah will be born to the house of David. On you he will sacrifice the priests of the high places who now make offerings here, and human bones will be burned on you’” (1 Kings 13:2, NIV).
As a sign that this word would come to pass, the man said the altar would be split in half and the ashes would pour out (v. 3).
Incensed that anyone would dare oppose him, the king pointed to the prophet and told his men to arrest him. No sooner had he extended his hand than the king’s arm shriveled up, and he was powerless to bring it back toward his body (4). Not only that, but the altar broke and emptied its contents, just as the man had said (5). So Jeroboam begged him to intercede for him, so his hand would be restored (6).
When that was done, the king invited the prophet to come have dinner with him (7). Perhaps he wanted to do some harm to the man in the privacy of his home. The man declined, explaining that God had told him not to eat or drink in that place and to return home via a different route (8-9).
As the prophet was making his way back to Judah, a retired prophet in Bethel was informed by his sons what had happened at the worship site (10-11). The old man found out which route the man of God from Judah had taken and set out after him on his donkey (12-13). When he found the fellow resting under a tree, the old man invited the prophet to dinner (14-15). The Judean repeated the Lord’s instructions (16-17).
The old man wouldn’t take no for an answer. He said that he, too, was a prophet and that God had told him to bring the man back to eat and drink with him (18). Unfortunately, the man of God fell for the lie and went back with the old man to Bethel (19). If only he had realized it is never a good idea to take God’s word from someone second-hand—especially if it contradicts what YHWH has already told you!
While they were taking their meal together, “a message from the LORD came to the old prophet” and he told the other man that, because he had disobeyed God, he would not be buried with his ancestors (1 Kings 13:20-22, NLT). I imagine the rest of the mealtime conversation was rather strained, and the man from Judah was in a hurry to get back home after that!
On his way out of town, the man was riding on a donkey when a lion attacked him on the road. Oddly enough, it only killed the man, but neither ate him, nor hurt his donkey. Both animals just stood there beside the body until someone went and told the others in Bethel about the spectacle. (23-25)
When the old man heard about it, he knew exactly what was going on (26). He went and retrieved the donkey and the body of the man of God from Judah, and then had a funeral and buried him in his own tomb (27-30). The old man instructed his sons to bury him next to the man when he died, explaining that everything the Judean had prophesied would come true someday (31-32).
Jereboam, meanwhile, continued in his self-styled worship and lured many others into it, as well (33). “This became a great sin and resulted in the destruction of Jeroboam’s kingdom and the death of all his family” (1 Kings 13:34, NLT).
1 Kings Chapter 14
Jeroboam’s son Abijah got sick, so the king instructed his wife to go in disguise to the prophet Ahijah to see whether the boy would get well or not (1 Kings 14:1-3). Then the queen went to Shiloh where the old prophet lived and took him some bread, cakes and honey as payment for his services (vv. 3-4).
Although Ahijah’s vision was clouded [with cataracts, perhaps?], he knew who she was right away, since the Lord had already told him she was coming and why (4-5). Identifying her immediately, he told her he had bad news: Because Jeroboam had “done more evil than all who were before” him by making the calf idols, the Lord was going to wipe him and his whole family out, leaving not one male survivor (6-10). “Dogs will eat those belonging to Jeroboam who die in the city, and the birds of the air will feed on those who die in the country” (1 Kings 14:11, NIV). Moreover, the boy Abijah would pass away as soon as his mother returned to her city (12). Of all of Jeroboam’s household, only he would be properly mourned and buried, since he was the only member of the family who was any good (13).
That very day, the Lord was positioning a man who would “cut off the house of Jeroboam” and rule in the king’s place over Israel (14). Eventually, YHWH intended to uproot the northern tribes altogether from their land and transplant them somewhere beyond the Euphrates, because of their idolatry and the other sins into which Jeroboam had led them (15-16).
How awful the poor woman must’ve felt when, true to the prophet’s word, her son died as soon as she returned to her husband (17)! As prophesied, the people mourned and buried him (18). After 22 years as king in Israel, Jeroboam died and was replaced by his son Nadab (19-20). The rest of the details of his administration were recorded in the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel.
Rehoboam’s administration was not so long as his rival’s. He assumed the throne of Judah at age 41 and ruled for 17 years (21). Not surprisingly, Solomon’s successor was the son of a pagan woman, Naamah from Ammon.
Judah committed some of the same sins as their neighbors to the north: They built high places, sacred pillars, and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree in Judah and Benjamin (22-23). They had male cult prostitutes and worshiped the same way as the nations they had displaced (24).
So in Rehoboam’s fifth year as king, Judah was invaded by Shishak from Egypt, who carried away all the treasures of Jerusalem—including the gold of the temple, the palace, and even the golden shields in the House of the Forest of Lebanon (25-26). Rehoboam replaced the shields with bronze replicas, which were stored in the guardhouse and only brought out when the king went to worship at the temple (27-28).
During all the days of their administrations, Rehoboam and Jeroboam were constantly at war (30). When Rehoboam died and was buried in the City of David, his son Abijam reigned in his place (31).
1 Kings Chapter 15
In the eighteenth year of Jeroboam’s reign, Rehoboam’s son, Abijam assumed the throne of Judah (1 Kings 15:1). This favorite son of Rehoboam’s favorite wife, Maachah the granddaughter of Abishalom [2 Chron. 11:20-22 says Absalom], only reigned three years in Jerusalem, because he was so corrupt and disloyal to YHWH (1 Kings 15:2-3). Only for David’s sake did the Lord leave his descendant in charge, since David had done everything God said, “except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite” (vv. 4-5).
Abijam continued the conflict begun by his father against Jeroboam (6-7). When he died and they buried him in the City of David, Abijam’s son, Asa took his place (8).
Asa, unlike his father and grandfather, was a man of faith. In the twentieth year of Jeroboam’s administration, he became king, and he reigned 41 years in Jerusalem (9-10). Like his great-great-grandfather, David, “Asa did what was right in the eyes of the LORD” (11). He got rid of the male prostitutes and the idols his ancestors had permitted in Judah (12). He deposed his grandmother, Maachah, from being queen mother, because she practiced idolatry (13). Her obscene wooden idol was burned outside the city. He didn’t remove all the high places in Judah, but he did the best he could to follow YHWH and put all the sacred things he and his father had dedicated to the Lord into the temple (14-15).
In the interest of maintaining continuity, covering just one ruler at a time, 1 Kings tells us “there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days” (16). Unless you are familiar with the material that appears later in this chapter, you are probably wondering who in the world Baasha might be! If you fast-forward to the end of Chapter 15, you’ll find out:
You may recall from 2 Chronicles 13:20 that not long after Israel’s devastating defeat by Abijah king of Judah, Jeroboam king of Israel died. According to 1 Kings 15:25, he was succeeded in the second year of Asa’s reign by his son Nadab. This guy was as bad as his father, continuing to lead Israel in idolatry, so Nadab’s reign lasted only two years (vv. 25-26). Baasha, a man of the tribe of Issachar, conspired against Nadab and killed him while he was besieging the Philistine city of Gibbethon (27). Not only did Baasha kill the king of Israel in the third year of Asa’s reign, but he slaughtered the entire royal family, as well, because of Jeroboam’s sin—just as YHWH had prophesied through Ahijah the Shilonite in 1 Kings 14:5-16 (1 Kings 15:28-30). This Baasha character reigned 24 years in Israel and was a thorn in Asa’s side the entire time (vv. 32-33). He didn’t make any real changes in the country, since he continued the idolatry and wickedness of Jeroboam during his administration (34).
Now, back to Asa. King Asa of Judah was doing great, until Baasha built up the city of Ramah not far from the border between the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel (17). This fortress was right along the main trade route to Judah, effectively cutting the kingdom off from the nations to the north. Rather than petitioning the Lord, as he had done in the past, Asa took the silver and gold he had not long before deposited at the temple and sent it as a present to Ben-Hadad, king of Syria in Damascus (18). He asked the Syrian king to make a treaty with him and break off his agreement with Baasha king of Israel, “so that he will withdraw from me” (19). The Syrian king was all too happy to take the treasure and attack the territory of Naphtali in the center of the northern kingdom (20). As intended, this stopped Baasha’s blockade of Judah (21).
Relieved, Asa called every able-bodied man in Judah to come help tear down Ramah and use the stones and timber to reinforce Geba and Mizpah of Benjamin, on his side of the border between the two kingdoms (22). Verse 23 tells us “in the time of his old age he was diseased in his feet,” but it doesn’t say why. It may very well have been a consequence of his disappointing behavior, about which YHWH confronted him in 2 Chronicles 16:7-10. 2 Chronicles 16:12-13 says he suffered this unnamed malady from the 39th year of his reign until his death two years later—yet “he did not ask for help from the Lord, but only from the doctors” (NCV). After he died and was buried in the City of David, Asa was succeeded by his son Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 15:24). How sad that a man who began so well ended his reign so poorly!
1 Kings Chapter 16
This chapter, plus the preceding nine verses of Chapter 15, illustrate the truth of Proverbs 28:2—“When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers” (NIV). During Asa’s 41-year administration, there were a total of eight men who ruled in Israel—five of them within the last five years of his reign!
Because Baasha continued the sins of the previous kings in Israel, the Lord sent the prophet Jehu to confront him, saying his family would be devastated, just as Baasha had destroyed Jeroboam’s family (1 Kings 16:1-4). Baasha died, was buried in Tirzah and was succeeded by his son Elah (v. 6). Elah became king in Asa’s 26th year and ruled only two years in Tirzah before he was assassinated (8).
Zimri, a general over half of Elah’s charioteers, attacked and killed the king while he was drinking himself senseless in the home of his personal steward (9-10). As Baasha had done, not only did Zimri take the throne, but he also slaughtered every family member and friend of the royal family, just as Jehu had foretold (10-13). In Asa’s 27th year as king over Judah, Zimri seized the throne of Israel, but he only stayed in charge for seven days (15)!
That’s because, once the army of Israel learned of the coup, they decided they’d rather have their general, Omri (who was at that time besieging Gibbethon of the Philistines), rule as king of Israel(16). They all marched back to Tirzah, the capital, and besieged it (17). As soon as he realized the city was taken, Zimri burned the king’s palace down around himself, paying a horrible price for his sins (18-20).
Now, the people of Israel were divided into two factions: One group wanted to make another fellow named Tibni king, while the rest were behind Omri (21). Omri’s group was stronger, so they killed Tibni and put Omri in charge (22). The former general became king in the 31st year of Asa—which would indicate there was some dispute over the throne for four years—and he reigned for six years in Tirzah, before buying the hill of Samaria and building his capital there (23-24). Unfortunately, this king was even worse than his predecessors, and when he died and was buried in the city he had built, Israel was stuck with an even worse king yet: Omri’s son Ahab (25-28).
“In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri became king over Israel,” and for 22 years, these poor people had to put up with the most wicked king ever (29-30). Not only did he continue the legacy of Jeroboam’s idolatry, but Ahab married Jezebel—a Sidonian princess, whose father was not only a priest of Baal, but had murdered his brother to take the throne! Under her influence, King Ahab built a temple and an altar dedicated expressly for Baal in his capital city, Samaria (31-32). There he also made a wooden Asherah idol. Verse 33 tells us “Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.”
By this time the climate of idolatry and disdain for God’s word was so great that a man by the name of Hiel rebuilt Jericho, sacrificing his oldest son to dedicate the foundation, and offering his youngest son to false gods when he dedicated its bars and gates (34). This was in direct fulfillment of the curse declared in Joshua 6:26.
1 Kings Chapter 17
This chapter introduces one of the most colorful individuals in the Old Testament: Elijah the prophet from Tishbe. The man of God traveled from across the Jordan in Gilead to inform Ahab the king, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word” (1 Kings 17:1, NIV).
Shortly after making this daring declaration, the prophet was told to go camp out near the Brook Cherith, where YHWH promised to send ravens to feed him each day (vv. 2-4). This would have required incredible faith on Elijah’s part, since ravens are scavengers who’ll eat almost anything, and they are not naturally inclined to share! Miraculously, the birds brought him two square meals a day—one consisting of bread from the morning sacrifice at the temple, while the other was of meat from the evening sacrifice (5-6). Although the delivery system was unconventional, the prophet must’ve eaten as well as any priest in Jerusalem!
When the brook dried up, due to the drought, the Lord sent Elijah to the city of Zaraphath in Sidon [Jezebel’s homeland], telling him “I have commanded a widow there to provide for you” (7-9). When the prophet arrived at the city gate, he found a woman gathering sticks and asked her for a drink of water (10). She was happy to accommodate this request, but when he added an appeal for “a morsel of bread,” she hesitated (11).
Somehow the woman knew he was a Hebrew and a devout man, for she answered,
“As the LORD your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die” (12).
There was not a lot of hope here. Still, when Elijah asked her to go ahead and fix a portion for him, as well, she listened (13). Of course, it may have helped that he added, “For thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth’” (14). After all, what did she have to lose? One less cake for her and the boy wouldn’t hasten their demise by much. Still, it required faith in what the prophet said to do as he asked. As a result, “she and he and her household ate for many days” (15). As YHWH had promised, not once did they run out of what little she had to offer (16).
At some point the woman’s son became deathly ill, till “there was no breath left in him” (17). Distraught at yet another loss in her life, the woman asked why the prophet had caused the death of her son (18). Elijah took the lifeless body to his room upstairs, laid the boy on his own bed, and prayed (19-20). He asked, “O LORD my God, have You also brought tragedy on the widow with whom I lodge, by killing her son?” Three times he stretched himself over the boy, begging, “…let this child’s soul come back to him” (21).
Remarkably, the Lord listened to Elijah and brought the boy back to life (22). When Elijah handed the now living child to his mother, she exclaimed, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth” (1 Kings 17:24, NIV). The miraculous continuation of oil and flour had not been enough. Instead, God turned this most recent tragedy to triumph and her impossible situation into an opportunity to prove Himself even further to her!
After quite some time at the widow’s house, Elijah was sent back to Samaria by the Lord to inform Israel’s king that rain was on its way (1 Kings 18:1). Meanwhile, the famine had gotten so bad, that Ahab and his chief steward had to go foraging for enough grass to keep the royal horses and donkeys alive (vv. 2-6). After they had separated to cover more ground, Elijah found Obadiah, the steward, and told him to let his master know that Elijah had returned (7-8).
Poor Obadiah wailed, “How have I sinned, that you are delivering your servant into the hand of Ahab, to kill me?” (9). He was a God-fearing man and wanted to do what the prophet told him, but he was sure that when he went to tell Ahab Elijah was there to see him, the Lord would surely move the prophet to safety, and the king would have the steward executed (10-12). He reminded Elijah that he had served YHWH all his life and had even hidden 100 prophets of the Lord by fifties in a cave, when Queen Jezebel tried to have them all killed (13).
Elijah reassured the steward, promising he’d still be there when Ahab came to see him (15). So Obadiah went and told Ahab (16).
In an expression of utter contempt for the prophet and the God he represented, King Ahab greeted Elijah, saying, “Is that you, O troubler of Israel?” (17)—as if it was all Elijah’s fault the nation was suffering hardship. The prophet calmly set the record straight: “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and have followed the Baals” (18). Then with the authority only a man of God can wield, he commanded the king to gather all the Israelites at Mount Carmel, as well as the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who were under Jezebel’s care and employ (19).
When everyone was assembled as directed, Elijah stepped up to confront the people: “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him” (20-21). The Israelites responded with a silence as stony as the idols they worshiped, so Elijah continued, “I alone am left a prophet of the LORD; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men” (22).
To demonstrate which was the greater God, Elijah proposed that the people provide two bulls—one the prophets of Baal could prepare and offer without lighting a fire under it; the other Elijah would slaughter and offer to YHWH without lighting a fire. Whichever deity responded by igniting the wood under their sacrifices would prove himself the true god of Israel (23-24). This seemed like a good plan to the double-minded Hebrews and the servants of Baal—especially considering that the object of their worship was supposedly the god of fire.
Deferring to his opponents, Elijah let the prophets of Baal go first (25). They cut up their victim, laid it on the wood and began to call out to their god (26). All morning they cried out and danced around their altar, but by noon there was no answer.
Elijah goaded the prophets, saying, “You’ll have to shout louder…for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or he is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or he is asleep and needs to be wakened!” (1 Kings 18:27, NLT). What a twisted sense of humor, to suggest that a god might be sleeping or distracted somehow. The Hebrew word, sig, which means literally “has gone aside,” was a euphemism for going to the bathroom!
Elijah’s trash talk of their god incited the priests of Baal to step up their appeal to their deity. They shouted louder, cut themselves with knives and lances and danced around more feverishly, with blood gushing everywhere (v. 28). By the time of the evening sacrifice, there was still no answer from Baal (29), and the false prophets were probably exhausted from their antics, the endless shouting, and from loss of blood.
Elijah called the attention of his countrymen away from the foolish priests to himself (30). He then proceeded to reconstruct an ancient altar of YHWH that had apparently been erected on the hilltop ages before. Using twelve uncut stones—one for each tribe—according to the instructions of Exodus 20:25 and Deuteronomy 27:5-7, Elijah set up his altar and added a ditch around it deep enough to hold 13 quarts of seed (1 Kings 18:31-32). He laid out the wood and cut up the bull for his offering, but then he did something very strange: Elijah ordered the people to drench the offering with several large pots full of water (vv. 33-34). Who knows where they got the water at the top of a hill during a 3-year drought? By the time they were done pouring, there was enough water to saturate the sacrifice and the wood, cover the stones of the altar and fill the trench (35). Talk about upping the ante in this wager!
By 6 PM, the prophet made his appeal, praying:
“LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again” (36-37).
No sooner had this calm, confident request been made, than a ball of fire burst from heaven, engulfing the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the dust and all the water from the trench in consuming flame (38). The people fell to their faces and shouted, “The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!” (39). If they said it fast enough, it could have come out sounding like they said, “Elijah,” since that is what the prophet’s name means!
Having fully established his authority and YHWH’s supremacy, the prophet urged the now-convinced children of Israel to seize the false prophets of the impotent god, Baal (40). The people complied, and not one of the idolatrous priests escaped death at the Brook Kishon.
Then Elijah encouraged the king to go enjoy food and drink, “For I hear a mighty rainstorm coming!” (1 Kings 18:41, NLT). When he said that, there was not a cloud in the sky. While Ahab feasted, Elijah went back on the mountain and prayed, in the position of a woman in labor (42). Seven times the prophet sent his servant to check the sky in the direction of the Mediterranean Sea. Each time, the fellow reported seeing nothing, until the seventh time, he said, “There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!” (43-44). That was enough for Elijah to send his companion to tell the king it was time to go home, “before the rain stops you.”
Sure enough, in no time the sky was covered in dark rain clouds, which brought high winds and heavy rain (45). While Ahab rode his chariot toward Jezreel, Elijah hitched up his robe and ran in the power of the Holy Spirit—faster than the king’s horses and chariot—and beat him home (46)!
1 Kings Chapter 19
When Ahab got home, he related all the details of what happened to Jezebel, who had apparently not thought she should grace the gathering on Mount Carmel with her presence (1 Kings 19:1). Infuriated that a mere commoner could have so much sway over the people and that her minions in the priesthood of Baal had been killed, the witchy queen sent a message with an oath to make Elijah like one of those priests by the very next day (v. 2).
Forgetting the amazing display of God’s power the day before, Elijah freaked out and fled the city. He dropped off his servant in Beersheba of Judah, and then went on ahead about a day’s journey into the wilderness (3-4). Under the shade of a broom tree, he told YHWH he was no better than his ancestors and just wanted to die (5).
Now before we go judging this man of God for giving in to suicidal thoughts, we must consider the following:
- Elijah had just come through a day of intense physical and spiritual exertion—confronting and then killing the priests of Baal; sitting in the hot sun, watching them call on their false god [without the benefit of sunscreen]; praying in the first rainstorm in three years; running 17 miles from Mount Carmel to Jezreel at superhuman speed. The let-down from such an adrenaline rush alone would’ve left his body utterly depleted.
- Jezebel, no doubt, was not only using intimidation, but exerted very real demonic power, including witchcraft, spells, curses and the like to defeat her foe.
- In his flight, Elijah probably had not gotten the proper rest or nutrition his body needed. The physical exhaustion, coupled with low blood sugar would leave anyone feeling ragged.
It is not uncommon for ministers to feel this kind of let-down following such a “mountaintop experience.” Anytime we do something great for God, the enemy comes at us with a vengeance.
The Lord did not heed Elijah’s request take his life, nor did He leave the prophet in this state of despondency. Instead, after Elijah had rested a while, YHWH sent an angel to bring him bread and water (5-6). The second time, the angel told the prophet, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you” (7). That must’ve been some amazing food and drink, since verse 8 tells us Elijah “went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God”!
When he reached the legendary Mount Horeb, or Sinai, where God had given Moses the Law, Elijah went into a cave to spend the night (9). There, “the word of the LORD came to him,” asking what the prophet was doing there, to which Elijah replied:
“I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life” (10).
Overwhelmed by his circumstances, Elijah exaggerated a bit. We already know from the previous chapter that there were at least 100 other prophets of YHWH in the Northern Kingdom (1 Kings 18:4 & 12-13). And after the demonstration on Mount Carmel, no one but Jezebel dared to oppose the prophet who had called down fire from heaven!
Without immediately addressing this complaint, the Lord sent Elijah out of the cave to talk with Him face-to-face (11). There came a violent wind, a terrible earthquake and consuming fire as YHWH passed by, but it was not until Elijah heard “a still small voice,” that he wrapped his face in his cloak and went outside to talk to God (12-13).
That audible voice repeated God’s question, and Elijah gave the same answer as before (13-14). The Lord then gave His servant three important assignments to be carried out in the following order (15-16):
- Go by way of the Wilderness of Damascus to anoint Hazael as king over Syria.
- Also anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as the new king of Israel.
- Anoint Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah as his own replacement.
Regarding these three men, the Lord said, “whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill; and whoever escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill” (17). Addressing the prophet’s feelings of self-pity as ‘the only one left’ serving YHWH, God told him, “I have seven thousand people left in Israel who have never bowed down before Baal and whose mouths have never kissed his idol” (1 Kings 19:18, NCV).
So eager was Elijah to anoint his own replacement, that he skipped the first two assignments and went straight to the village where Elisha lived (v. 19). The young man apparently came from a prosperous family, since he was plowing his field with twelve servants and as many sets of oxen, when Elijah threw his coat over his shoulders.
Somehow this act signified to the young man that the prophet was calling him into service, and he asked permission to go and say goodbye to his parents (20). Elijah acted as if nothing had happened, saying, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?”
Although this happened centuries before Jesus ever said, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62), Elisha must’ve realized it was now or never that he follow this spiritual leader into his destiny. In an act signifying to himself and those around him that he was leaving his old way of life behind to enter into this new calling, Elisha slaughtered his two oxen, cooked their flesh over the wood of his plow, and gave it to the people to eat. “Then he arose and followed Elijah, and became his servant” (1 Kings 19:21). Other Bible versions say “attendant” (NIV), “assistant” (NLT), or “helper” (NCV)—all of which are appropriate translations of the Hebrew word, sarat, which is almost always applied to one who serves in an important capacity, not as a slave [c.f.—Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words].
1 Kings Chapter 20
Ben-Hadad, the Syrian king Asa had hired to stop Baasha from blockading Judah (1 Kings 15:16-21)—or, rather, the son of that king—gathered 32 other kings and their armies to besiege Samaria (1 Kings 20:1). Then he sent messengers to Ahab, claiming the king’s silver, gold, wives and children (vv. 2-3). Ahab agreed to these terms, saying, “Just as you say, my lord the king. I and all I have are yours.” (1 Kings 20:4, NIV).
But when Ben-Hadad sent another message saying his servants would come and take anything else they thought was precious to King Ahab, the Israelite monarch felt he had gone too far (vv. 5-6). Ahab called the elders together and explained the situation to them, saying the Syrian king was just trying to make trouble (7). His advisers said the king should not agree to these terms, so Ahab told the messengers he would comply with the first request, but not the second (8-9).
Naturally, Ben-Hadad did not take this refusal well and threatened to reduce the city to dust too scant for each of his men to take a handful (10). Ahab brazenly replied, “Let not the one who puts on his armor boast like the one who takes it off” (11)—something like our cliché, ‘Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.’ This trash talk was delivered to the Syrian king while he was partying at the command post, where he told his generals to get ready to attack (12).
About that time, a prophet came and told Ahab YHWH was going to deliver the massive army into his hand, so the king would “know that I am the LORD” (13). Ahab asked for more information, and the prophet told him the young leaders of his province should lead the attack with Ahab at the head of the army (14). When Ahab mustered everyone, there were 232 young captains and 7,000 fighting men (15)—hardly enough to make a dent in the multitudes from Syria!
The Israelites marched out to battle at noon, while the Syrian kings were getting drunk at the command post (16). Therefore, when word came to Ben-Hadad that men were coming out of Samaria, he gave an utterly senseless order: “If they have come out for peace, take them alive; and if they have come out for war, take them alive” (17-18). So with their tiny army, Israel utterly slaughtered the enemy, while Ben-Hadad fled on horseback (19-21). The same prophet warned Ahab to get ready for another assault, “because next spring the king of Aram [Syria] will attack you again” (1 Kings 20:22, NIV).
Sure enough, King Ben-Hadad’s advisers suggested that the reason the Syrians were defeated was because the Israelite deities were gods of the hills, but if the Syrians engaged them in the plains, they would be able to overpower the Hebrews (23). They told him to dismiss the kings and put military men in charge (24). “Gather an army like the one that was destroyed and as many horses and chariots as before. We will fight the Israelites on flat land, and then we will win” (1 Kings 20:25, NCV). That spring Ben-Hadad went with his army to Aphek on the east side of the Jordan River to fight Israel (26).
When the Israelites went out to engage the enemy, they looked “like two little flocks of goats, while the Syrians filled the countryside” (27). Yet, in spite of them being grossly outnumbered and under-equipped, the Lord again promised to grant the Hebrews victory, since the Syrians were thinking He was only a god of higher elevations (28). For a week, they faced each other off without fighting, but on the seventh day, Israel killed 100,000 foot soldiers of the Syrian army (29). The rest of the Syrians fled into the city of Aphek, where a wall collapsed and killed another 27,000 (30). Meanwhile, Ben-Hadad took shelter in an inner room of some building.
Ben-Hadad’s advisers came up with another shrewd plan. They told the king that they had heard the rulers of Israel were merciful, so they proposed that they go out wearing sackcloth around their waists and ropes on their heads and plead for the king’s life (31). When they went out to Ahab and did so, he was amazed the Syrian king was still alive, and called him his brother (32). The envoys latched right onto that statement, repeating, “Your brother, Ben-Hadad” (33). When the king of Syria came out, the Israelite king took him into his chariot, then Ben-Hadad offered to give back the cities his father had previously taken from Israel and to set up trading posts for Israel in his cities (33-34). Ahab agreed to these terms and let the Syrian monarch return home in peace.
This was not satisfactory at all to the Lord, so He had one of his prophets ask another man to strike him with a sword (35). The man refused to injure a fellow Israelite, so the prophet told him he would be killed by a lion, and he was (36). Whether or not the next man witnessed this, we aren’t told. But the second guy the prophet approached obliged his request, and then the prophet put a bandage around his head and approached Ahab in disguise (37-38).
In the same way Nathan had confronted David about his adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:1-12), this unnamed prophet broached the subject of Ahab’s failure by telling a story. He told the king he had been entrusted with a particular prisoner during the heat of battle, but the man disappeared. He said he had been told, “Guard this man; if for any reason he gets away, you will either die or pay a fine of seventy-five pounds of silver!” (1 Kings 20:39, NLT). Ahab said that he had to pay or die as he’d been told, since he let the other man escape (40).
Then the prophet removed the bandage, so King Ahab could see who he was (41). Then he said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Because you have let slip out of your hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore your life shall go for his life, and your people for his people’” (42). So instead of celebrating his victory, Ahab went home to Samaria sullen because of the prophet’s prediction (43).
1 Kings Chapter 21
In this chapter we learn who really ran the show during Ahab’s administration, or as we often say, ‘who really wears the pants’ in Ahab’s household. Jezebel’s character is revealed in all its demonic glory.
Jezreel, in the territory of Issachar or Manasseh, was apparently a summer residence for the king of Israel. There was a man by the name of Naboth who owned a vineyard close to the palace there, and Ahab wanted to turn it into a vegetable garden (1 Kings 21:1-2). The king made a reasonable offer to buy or trade for the man’s property, but Naboth refused to give his ancestral heritage to the king (vv. 2-3). Rather than accepting this refusal and going on to something else, Ahab went home, went to bed and refused to eat (4).
Jezebel came in and wondered why the king was pouting like a toddler who hadn’t gotten his way, so Ahab described the situation (5-6). She first mocked the king for not exercising his royal authority, then she ordered him to eat and cheer up. “I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite,” she promised (7).
Every bit as evil as the “Witchy Woman” the Eagles used to sing about, Jezebel took action to procure the desired property for her husband. She wrote letters in Ahab’s name, ordering the elders of Jezreel to set Naboth up and have him executed (8-10). Since the dispatches bore the royal seal, the local officials didn’t bat an eyelash about this miscarriage of justice. They carried out the wicked plot and then sent Jezebel a message informing her when the dirty deed was done (11-14). She proudly informed the king, “Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money; for Naboth is not alive, but dead” (15).
Ahab didn’t bother to ask how this had happened. Perhaps the idea of ‘plausible deniability’ was a policy with which the king was well acquainted. He just got up and went merrily on his way to claim the land that had been forfeited to him (16). YHWH was fully aware of the whole thing, however, and sent the prophet Elijah to confront him about it (17-18). Imagine the king’s dismay hearing Elijah accuse, “Have you murdered and also taken possession?” (19). Although Ahab was not directly responsible for Naboth’s death, the Lord knew his covetousness was the root of the problem and that, by allowing his wife to misuse authority, he had just as surely caused the death of an innocent man to seize what was rightfully his.
You can hear Ahab’s contempt for the prophet when he said, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” Elijah countered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the LORD” (20). The prophet went on to say that Ahab’s family, friends and servants would be wiped out, because of his personal sin and the way he had caused Israel to sin (21-22). In graphic terms, the prophet described the fate of Ahab’s household: “And the Lord also says, ‘Dogs will eat the body of Jezebel in the city of Jezreel.’ Anyone in your family who dies in the city will be eaten by dogs, and anyone who dies in the fields will be eaten by birds” (1 Kings 21:23-24, NCV).
In the Living Bible, verses 25-26 summarize Ahab’s life this way:
No one else was so completely sold out to the devil as Ahab, for his wife, Jezebel, encouraged him to do every sort of evil. He was especially guilty because he worshiped idols just as the Amorites did—the people whom the Lord had chased out of the land to make room for the people of Israel.
Surprisingly, the king responded by tearing his clothes, putting on sackcloth and going about in mourning for several days (27). This touched God’s heart, for He told Elijah, “Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son” (1 Kings 21:29, NIV). The sentence would still be carried out; just not when Ahab was alive to see it.
1 Kings Chapter 22
In this chapter we see how God executed the first part of this plan. So devastated was the Syrian army by YHWH and the Hebrews that Ahab’s kingdom enjoyed peace for three years (1 Kings 22:1). Then the king decided he wanted to get back Ramoth in Gilead from the Syrians, since that had apparently not been part of the territory returned by Ben-Hadad.
1 Kings does not tell us so, but we learn from 2 Chronicles 18:1 that Jehoshaphat king of Judah allied himself by marriage to Ahab. While the Judean king was visiting his in-laws, Ahab brought up the matter of Ramoth Gilead and asked if Jehoshaphat would join him in the fight to regain it (1 Kings 22:2-4). True to his covenant with the king of Israel, Jehoshaphat said, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses” (4)—in other words, ‘Since we’re family, my army and I are at your disposal.’
Being a man of faith, Jehoshaphat first wanted to consult with the Lord before going into battle. When given this request, Ahab gathered his 400 false prophets, who all declared that the king should go to Ramoth and that he would be successful (5-6). Jehoshaphat realized these were not prophets of YHWH, so he asked, “Is there not still a prophet of the LORD here, that we may inquire of Him?” (7). Jezebel, you may recall, had pretty successfully reduced the population of God-fearing men in Israel (See 1 Kings 18:4). Ahab grudgingly admitted there was one available, “…but I hate him. He never prophesies anything but bad news for me! His name is Micaiah son of Imlah” (1 Kings 22:8, NLT).
While the king sent someone to fetch Micaiah, one of the false prophets named Zedekiah came forward with horns made of iron, claiming, “With these you shall gore the Syrians until they are destroyed” (vv. 9-11). On the way to the kings’ presence, the guard told Micaiah everyone was saying good things to Ahab and so should he (13). Micaiah answered with an oath, “…whatever the LORD says to me, that I will speak” (14).
When he appeared before Ahab and Jehoshaphat, Michaiah at first repeated what all the false prophets were saying (15). Ahab knew that was not characteristic of the son of Imlah, so he ordered him to tell the truth (16). Then Michaiah declared, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And the LORD said, ‘These have no master. Let each return to his house in peace’” (17). That was more along the lines of what Ahab was used to hearing. He said to Jehoshaphat, “Did I not tell you he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?” (18).
Then Micaiah described a scene in heaven not unlike the appearance of the two kings sitting before him. YHWH was enthroned in heaven, surrounded by angels and demons (19). He asked, “Who will persuade Ahab to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?” (20). The spirits proposed several things, but then one in particular offered to “go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets” (21-22). The Lord was sure this plan would succeed and authorized the demon to carry it out, so that Ahab would be persuaded to go to his death.
When Zedekiah realized Micaiah was suggesting that he was under the influence of a deceiving spirit, he came and smacked the prophet on the jaw, saying, “Which way did the spirit from the LORD go from me to speak to you?” (24). Michaiah replied that he’d find out the day he went into an inner room to hide (25).
Ahab had Micaiah placed in the custody of the king’s son and the mayor of the city, with instructions to feed the prophet on bread and water until he returned (26-27). Micaiah was so confident of his message from YHWH, he said, “If you ever return in peace, the LORD has not spoken by me,” and warned everyone to pay attention (28).
The prophet’s message must’ve rattled Ahab some, for he proposed on the day of battle that Jehoshaphat go out in full regalia, while Ahab disguised himself as a regular soldier (29-30). It would’ve been a good plan, since the Syrian king had ordered his 32 chariot captains to focus their attack on Ahab alone (31). When they saw Jehoshaphat, they assumed he was their man—until he cried out to YHWH (32-33).
But that didn’t stop God from carrying out His vengeance on Ahab. An archer shooting at random, ‘happened’ to strike Ahab at a joint in his armor, seriously wounding the king (34). While Ahab withdrew to a safe vantage point, he slowly bled to death, as the battle raged on before him (35). At sunset Ahab expired and his men called off the battle (36). They took him home and buried the king in Samaria (37). The prophecy about dogs licking up his blood was fulfilled when someone rinsed out the chariot in which Ahab had propped himself that day (38).
Verse 39 tells us more information about Ahab’s deeds, the ivory palace he built and the cities he constructed is available in The Chronicles of the Kings of Israel. Verse 40 tells us his son Ahaziah succeeded Ahab to the throne.
In Ahab’s fourth year as king of Israel, Asa’s son Jehoshaphat became king in Judah at the age of 35 (41-42). Contrary to 2 Chronicles 17:6, 1 Kings 22:43 says the high places were not taken away during his administration, and the people continued to make sacrifices and burn incense there, although Jehoshaphat himself did what was right. The king also kicked all the male cult prostitutes from the land of Judah (v. 46).
Verse 44 says he made peace with the king of Israel, but does not mention that this was done through marriage, as we were told in 2 Chronicles 18:1. Verse 47 tells us Edom had no indigenous king at this time; only a deputy of the king of Judah, apparently. Jehoshaphat had merchant ships constructed to sail to Ophir—perhaps intending to follow Solomon’s example—but they were wrecked at Ezion Geber (48). Ahab’s son Ahaziah tried to get in on that action, but Jehoshaphat did not agree to allow the servants of the king of Israel on board his vessels (49). One wonders, then, whether the ships were sabotaged. When Jehoshaphat died and was buried in the City of David, his son Jehoram took his place (50).
During Jehoshaphat’s seventh year as king of Judah, Ahab’s son Ahaziah inherited the throne of Israel and reigned for two years (51). His administration was about like his predecessors’, in that he not only continued the idol worship started by Jeroboam, but he also participated in Baal worship like his dad (52-53).
One important lesson to be learned from this book is that the seeds of rebellion sown in one generation can grow to monstrous proportions in others. If leaders take a path that deviates from God’s plan, it can bring disaster on themselves and those under their authority. As long as individual and national sin is not dealt with, it grows like a cancer and spreads to neighboring societies. It’s practically impossible to get a culture back on track, once its leaders steer it in the wrong direction.
That’s something this nation needs to get a hold of. The socioeconomic ills we are facing today are just as much the result of previous administrations and their failures as they are caused by the current men and women in charge. We as a people have strayed from our original devotion to God, just as ancient Israel did. As we continue to elect individuals with questionable values to office, we are only getting the kind of government we deserve—one which reflects our own decaying morality with each generation.
Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version of the Bible—© 1982, by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
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