1 Kings picks up where 1 and 2 Samuel left off, presenting the story of Israel's declining monarchy. We continue to see what happens when God’s people disobey their covenants with the Lord and disregard His prophets. There will be more leaning towards sinful behavior along with a lack of repentance. We will listen in as an aged and sick king David urged his son and successor, Solomon to remain obedient to the Lord and pay close attention to the consequences of his actions. In the next days we will also see the stories of both Elijah and Elisha. They served the Lord during a violent and unstable time in Israel’s history. Here are some things to think about as you read. Ancient wisdom included such things as music, poetry, proverbial sayings for wise conduct, and what we would call science. It was common practice during Old Testament times for one nation to recognize the deities of another. The Palace of the Forest of Lebanon was named that because its many pillars were made from the trunks of cedars from Lebanon, giving the palace the appearance of a massive Forrest. And the sea of cast metal or bronze was a huge reservoir of water holding nearly 12,000 gallons of water that was used by the priests for ritual cleansing. Keep in mind there was no direct water source to Jerusalem. The nearest running water was almost six miles away. Think about filling your swimming pool by carrying water by hand!
There are three themes to look for as you read: the Mosaic covenant, the Davidic covenant, and one true God. The history of Israel's kings is presented not from a political, social, or economic standpoint. Assessments of the various kings are made based on their obedience to the Mosaic covenant. You can reread that in Deuteronomy 17:14-20. Obedience brings blessings and disobedience brings judgement. The Davidic covenant allows historians to use David's life and reign as the standard by which later kings were measured. And finally, One true God. There was to be one central place of worship...the temple in Jerusalem. The single, official place of worship emphasized the truth that there is but one God. The failure to obey this command led to idolatry, the major reason for the defeats of both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah.
By this time David was about 70 years old, which in the scheme of things wasn't that old but the years of running from Saul and the years of warfare no doubt took a toll on David. Adonijah was David's oldest living son and probably 35 at this time. David's firstborn Amnon was killed by Absalom. David's second son Kileab must have died young because there is no record off his life. His third son Absalom was slain by Joab and that made Adonijah the oldest. He clearly felt he deserved the throne even though Solomon had been designated the successor. Adonijah called a feast inviting all but David's most trusted advisors and his brother Solomon. He deliberately exalted himself against God's will. Between Bathsheba and David's advisors, Solomon was taken to Ghion on David's own royal mule and anointed there as David's successor. They returned to Jerusalem with shouts of acclamation, trumpet blowing and enough noise to make the ground shake. First the noise and then the news of Solomon’s coronation reached Adonijah. His guests fled out of fear and Adonijah fled to the temple where he hung onto the horns of the altar. At this point the horns were a place of refuge for those who had committed unintentional crimes. However, what Adonijah did was not unintentional. He acted with a premeditated purpose. Solomon had him removed from the altar and promised that if Adonijah proved to be a worthy man his life would be spared.
Chapter two brings us David's instructions to Solomon. Solomon is urged and walk in His ways. Doing so would result in a multitude of blessings. David also reminded Solomon of what Joab had done to Abner and Amasa. Solomon was to use his wisdom in dealing with them. Solomon was encouraged to show kindness to Barzillai who had showed great kindness to David. Solomon was also left to deal with Shimei, the rock thrower. David had promised to not kill him for his crimes, but Solomon was encouraged to deal with him. After that David died and the people mourned. Solomon was established on the throne and began his reign. Just when it looked like things might settle down, Adonijah made another appearance. He wanted permission to marry Abishag, the Shunammite who kept David warm in his last days. What he was really doing was laying claim to David's servant girl...almost like asking for the queen's hand. It was a power move and Solomon also saw the hands of Joab and Abiathar in this plot. All three were dealt with severely. Abiathar was removed from his priestly office and God's word to Eli came to fulfillment. There would be no more descendants of Eli serving the Lord. Joab was a murderer and as such he could not claim the protection of the horns of the altar. He was executed for shedding innocent blood. And Adonijah was also put to death. Shimei the rock thrower could build a house in Jerusalem with one caveat. He could not go outside the city walls and if he did, he would be put to death. He agreed to obey Solomon but after a period of three years he left Jerusalem to chase after slaves who had run away from him. When he returned, he too was executed.
So far, Solomon was walking in the ways of the Lord. He traveled to Ghion, the place where he was anointed king, to offer sacrifices and while he was there God came to him in a dream. What did Solomon want God to give him. Solomon did not ask for riches, power, military victories, or a long life. Solomon asked for wisdom to rule God's chosen people. Solomon humbled himself before the Lord and acknowledged all that the Lord had done for his father David. Not only did the Lord grant him wisdom, but He also gave him all the other things too. We get a glimpse of Solomon's wisdom in the account of the two prostitutes who came to him arguing over whose baby was living and whose was dead. The fact that prostitutes could appear before the king of Israel suggests that Solomon made himself available to people from all walks of life.
Ae end the reading is the list of people involved in Solomon's administration. Some of the names are familiar and many are new. There were twelve governors in charge of Solomon's districts. They were responsible for handling lesser administrative duties and raising revenue for the crown. These districts did not follow tribal boundaries. There are a couple of things to notice here. We see the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham in 4:20. Judah and Israel are as numerous as the sand by the sea. This is a reminder that God keeps His promises. And then we see that Solomon ruled from the Mediterranean all the way to the River, the River here meaning the Euphrates River. That was the original eastern boundary of the promised land, but the Israelites in Joshua's day could not or did not defeat all those people. David's story is over, but the house God promised him, lives on. Now we will follow Solomon and see how obedient he is to the Lord.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W