1 Kings

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Invitation to 1 Kings

In Hebrew tradition the Books of Kings belong to a group of writings called the Former Prophets. This tradition, which developed long before the time of Christ, made the Books of Kings the last in the order of four prophetic scrolls. These scrolls were listed as Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. Scribes provided the total number of verses at the end of each of these scrolls. The Latter Prophets consisted of four large scrolls called Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve. The scroll of the Twelve consisted of all the books modern translations call the Minor Prophets.

Kings in the Greek Bible of Christians

In the first centuries after Christ, Christians began to publish their sacred writings in a book form called a codex. The Christian order of biblical books was fixed by the sequence they were given in the codex. Christians used the Old Testament in Greek and Latin translations. The Greek translations were completed before the time of Christ, and their various editions were used by New Testament writers. Both the manuscripts and the earliest lists of Genesis through Chronicles are as we know them in modern translations.

Kings in Greek Bibles has two distinct differences from the Hebrew. The Greek translation has 1 Kings 21 before chapter 20, so Naboth’s vineyard follows the account of Elijah. Some Greek manuscripts also end the story of David at 1 Kings 2:11, so the Books of Kings begin at 1 Kings 2:12 in our Bibles with the reign of Solomon. Perhaps most importantly, Christians tend to read Kings as a history along with Chronicles. The Hebrew has Kings as a prophetic work continuing the story of the covenant with Moses. Chronicles is a separate history written much later, so in the Hebrew Bible, it is placed in their third section with Psalms, Proverbs, and other non-prophetic writings.

Kings as a Prophetic Work

Kings is not an ordinary history. It has as its central concern a review of how the nations of Israel and Judah under their respective kings lived in relation to the covenant given by Moses. The prophetic authors of Kings use the last words of Moses in the Book of Deuteronomy as their measure for covenant faithfulness. The Book of Deuteronomy may be viewed in two parts, the first ending with the requirement to renew the covenant ceremony at Shechem in chapter 11. This requirement is repeated in greater detail in chapter 27. The first eleven chapters focus on faithfulness by learning to love and fear the Lord in keeping the ten words given at Mount Sinai. The latter half of Deuteronomy describes how the covenant was to be lived in the land, covering matters of worship, leadership, and various civil regulations. Moses left this as the instruction to be followed by kings. Rulers of Israel were to retain and read a copy of this law so they would always obey it (Deut 17:18–20). The prophetic writers in Kings consistently use this as their standard for evaluating each king and providing instruction concerning the work of God.

A Prophetic Account of Israel and Judah

The method of the prophetic writers included a precise chronology that is both necessary for the readers yet difficult to understand. For example, King Omri is said to have begun his reign in the 31st year of the reign of Asa (1Kgs 16:23). He is succeeded by Ahab in the 38th year of Asa (16:29), though he reigned for twelve years. This is typical in Kings; the chronology requires interpretation that was self-evident to the authors. In addition to their method of chronology is a deliberate selection of material. The account begins with the reign of Solomon in about 970 BC and ends with Jehoiachin in exile released from prison in about 560 BC. The whole period of the composition is four centuries, almost the period from the Reformation to the present time. The reign of Omri, the first dynasty of Israel, began in 883 BC. His dynasty ended with the extermination of his sons by Jehu in 840 BC. The account of this one generation of about forty years begins in 1 Kings 16 and ends in 2 Kings 10, approximately seventeen chapters of the total of forty-seven chapters, just over one third of the total. This lopsided presentation of the nation is purposely provided in this way. The Israelites as well as Judah were constantly threatened by the materialism of the Baal cult. The narrative of the dynasty of Omri demonstrates in detail the temptations that plagued Israel and Judah, leading to their destruction and exile. Chronology and the selection of material were the means the prophetic writers used to achieve their goal to show Israelite disobedience in not serving God alone. Their punishment was death; the nation went into exile.

The Lessons of Kings

The Books of Kings show that God is faithful to his word and his covenant. Prophets after the exile are careful to observe this truth. Zechariah begins his prophecy by reminding those who have returned from exile of the lessons of the covenant. “Where are the fathers and the prophets of old? Has not the prophetic word come into fulfilment in their destiny, in that they have received the consequences of the curse exactly as the prophets had said?” (Zech 1:5–6). This prophetic story is to teach God’s people to live by his covenant that they may receive his blessing rather than the curse.

The Authors of Kings

Like most ancient compositions, the authors of this great work remain anonymous. They have left record of some of the prophetic sources they used. These are listed as the record of Solomon (1Kgs 11:41), the records of the kings of Israel (1Kgs 14:19), and the records of the kings of Judah (1Kgs 15:7). The Chronicler provides an almost identical enumeration of sources for the kings of Judah (the Chronicler does not deal with the kings of Israel), but he frequently includes a prophetic name with his source. This indicates that Kings was largely composed of prophetic historical essays written from reign to reign. These were not royal records, as the scribes of Kings did not concern themselves with the prophetic burden revealed in Kings. Further, there is far too much criticism of almost all the kings for these to have been preserved as official monarchical records. Many of the prophets of these essays would have had access to royal records, and some of them would have served the king, as Gad did for David (2Sam 24:11). The narrative of Kings is presented as a composition created from these prophetic accounts.

One such account has probably been preserved in a modified form in 2 Kings 18:13–20:19. The same narrative is found in Isaiah 36–39, though chapter 38 especially has been adapted for the message of Isaiah concerning Jerusalem. A study of the text of these two passages is indicative of a common text from which they were taken, for the most part repeated in the same verbal form.1 The prophet Isaiah was intimately associated with Hezekiah, both in the critical times of his illness and the Assyrian decimation of Judah, which ended with the siege of Jerusalem. This would seem to be the kind of prophetic account used by the authors of Kings.

There are indications that this composition covering 400 years was written in stages. The reign of Hezekiah was a time of renewal and change. Just before his reign the Assyrians had captured Samaria and ended the autonomy of the kingdom of Israel. This gave Hezekiah the opportunity to extend an invitation to all Israel to worship at Jerusalem, which resulted in a great response (2Chr 30). Hezekiah engaged in a great deal of military and cultural renewal after the dark days of Ahaz. Hezekiah is the first king to make Jerusalem the only place where all Israel should worship. In Deuteronomy, worshiping at the place God would choose (Deut 12:5) is a requirement repeated many times.

A literary indication of the stages of Kings may be seen in the authorial assessment of each king that structures the composition. These assessments begin with Solomon (1Kgs 3:2–3) and continue with Rehoboam in the South (1Kgs 14:22) and Nadab in the North (1Kgs 15:34). Scribal differences in these notations suggest that the first edition of Kings extended from Jehoshaphat to Hezekiah. This was expanded during the reign of Josiah and again during the exile.2 The final composition shows that the Book of Kings as we have it was integrated with the other three books of the Former Prophets to show the work of God from Joshua to the exile.


The continuing promise of God was announced by Ahijah the prophet when the northern kingdom was taken away from Solomon and given to his rival Jeroboam. The light of David for all time would continue in Judah in the city which God had chosen (1Kgs 11:36). This promise is repeated in the succession of the dynasty of David (1Kgs 15:4; 2Kgs 8:19). There is only one God in Israel (1Kgs 18:36; 2Kgs 5:15), and he keeps his promise. The prophetic message of Kings prevents worship of a divided mind; it drives readers to an undivided opinion of the work of God in Israel.

Key Verse

For the sake of David, the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, by establishing his son after him, and by maintaining Jerusalem.

— 1 Kings 15:4, author’s translation


I. The Inauguration of Solomon (1:1–2:46)

A. The Enthronement of Solomon (1:1–2:11)

B. Solomon Consolidates His Rule (2:12–46)

II. The Reign of Solomon (3:1–28)

A. Solomon’s Court (3:1–3)

B. The Vision at Gibeon (3:4–15)

C. The Justice of Solomon (3:16–28)

III. The Kingdom of Solomon (4:1–5:19)

A. The Royal Administration (4:1–6)

B. Twelve Administrative Districts (4:7–19)

C. Kingdom of Peace (4:20–34)

D. Solomon’s Relationship with Hiram (5:1–12)

E. Solomon’s Conscripted Work Force (5:13­–19)

IV. Solomon’s Building Projects (6:1–7:12)

A. The Temple (6:1–7:1)

B. The Palace Complex (7:2–12)

V. The Temple Artifacts (7:13–51)

A. The Ornamental Pillars (7:13–22)

B. The Sea and the Wash Basins (7:23–51)

VI. The Temple Dedication (8:1–66)

A. The Installation of the Ark (8:1–21)

B. Dedicatory Prayer (8:22–66)

VII. Completion of the Building Projects (9:1–10:29)

A. Second Vision of Solomon (9:1–9)

B. Commercial Aspects of the Kingdom (9:10–28)

C. Visit of the Queen of Sheba (10:1–13)

D. Splendour of the Kingdom (10:14–29)

VIII. Failure of the Kingdom (11:1–43)

A. Apostacy of Solomon (11:1–13)

B. Disintegration of the Kingdom (11:14–25)

C. Prophetic Judgment (11:26–40)

D. Concluding Summary (11:41–43)

IX. A Kingdom Divided (12:1–14:31)

A. Revolt against Rehoboam (12:1–24)

B. Jeroboam Rules Israel (12:25–32)

C. Prophetic Judgment against House of Jeroboam (12:33–13:34)

D. End of the Reign of Jeroboam (14:1–20)

E. Reign of Rehoboam (14:21–31)

X. Wars of Israel and Judah (15:1–24)

A. Abijah (15:1–8)

B. Asa (15:9–24)

XI. Anarchy in the Rule of Israel (15:25–16:34)

A. Reign of Nadab (15:25–32)

B. Rule of Baasha (16:1–7)

C. Rule of Elah (16:8–14)

D. Rule of Zimri (16:15–22)

E. Omri (16:23–28)

F. Ahab (16:29–34)

XII. Days of Elijah (17:1–19:21)

A. The Test of Elijah (17:1)

B. Elijah at the Wadi Cherith (17:2–7)

C. Elijah with the Widow of Zarephath (17:8–16)

D. Widow’s Son Raised to Life (17:17–24)

E. Elijah Confronts Ahab (18:1–19)

F. Elijah Confronts the Baal Prophets (18:20–46)

G. Elijah Flees to Mount Sinai (19:1–12)

H. God Commissions Successors to Elijah (19:13–21)

XIII. Duplicity of Ahab (20:1–43)

A. Aramean Attack on Samaria (20:1–21)

B. Aramean Battle at Aphek (20:22–34)

C. Prophetic Judgment of Ahab (20:35–43)

XIV. Naboth’s Vineyard (21:1–29)

A. Judicial Murder for Property (21:1–16)

B. Punishment of Death for Legal Murder (21:17–29)

XV. Punishment of Israel (22:1–54)

A. Dispute of the Prophets (22:1–28)

B. Battle at Ramoth Gilead (22:29–38)

C. Summary of Rule of Ahab (22:39–40)

D. Rule of Jehoshaphat (22:41–51)

E. Rule of Ahaziah (22:52–54)

The Inauguration of Solomon (1:1–2:46)

The first two chapters introducing Solomon are distinct in this story. As part of the continuing narrative, they conclude the account of David in Samuel; the statement of his burial is in 1 Kings 2:10–11. The succession of David as king reveals the conflict within David’s household as narrated in 2 Samuel 9–20. The Books of Samuel now conclude with an appendix to the reign of David in 2 Samuel 21–24. The accounts of David’s men and the choice of the temple site in 2 Samuel 21–24 are distinguished by a brilliance of composed poetry and records of David. The introduction of Solomon may have been adapted from the narrative of David later separated by the insertion of the appendix when Samuel and Kings were made separate books.

Enthronement of Solomon (1:1–2:11)

1:1–4 These verses describe the court scene necessary to understand the sequence of events that follows, as is noted in a parenthetical remark (1Kgs 1:15b). David’s advanced age of seventy years (2:11) had debilitated him to the point of no longer having the capacity to govern. This became the occasion for Adonijah to make his claim for succession to the throne. Adonijah was the fourth and apparently oldest surviving son (cf. 2Sam 3:1–5). Absalom had killed Ammon (2Sam 13:28–29), and Joab killed Absalom (2Sam 18:14–15). Nothing is known of the second son, Chileab, except his name.

The presence of a beautiful young woman does not inspire in David the strength to make her part of his harem, an accepted and inoffensive custom of this time. As a result, Abishag is not able to exercise the responsibilities of a queen but is limited to a role of providing daily care for an aging king. Her position is that of the highest dignitaries of the court, but the limited duties of her presence demonstrate that the king is no longer capable of carrying out the responsibility of his rule.

1:5–10 The disfunction of David provided the occasion for Adonijah to revolt against the succession of Solomon David had earlier made by oath (1Kgs 1:30). Adonijah presumes that the oldest son should be the one to succeed as king, though this is never stated as a fixed custom. The actions of Adonijah indicate that he was quite aware of the intended succession, so he attempted to rally support for his own claim to become king. This short description of his pre-empted self-investiture as the king of Israel serves as the introduction to three scenes which describe the inauguration of Solomon as king. The narrator leaves no doubt that it was the will of God for Solomon to become king. His account provides a sequence of events in which this is the inevitable outcome, even though it includes a lot of intrigue within the court, all too common in a transfer of rule.

Adonijah initiated his revolt with all the trappings of a military leader of the royal court. He obtained a horse-drawn war chariot with a small cavalry and guard of honor to give him the status of being a king. The employment of cavalry in Israel’s military was an innovation—David had made little use of it (cf. 2Sam 8:4). Adonijah appears to have taken advantage of rivalries within David’s military and court leadership, which no doubt had grown more intense with his weakened state. Joab was the chief military leader (2Sam 8:16), and Abiather the priest had served David from the beginning (1Sam 22:20–23). They conspired together with Adonijah so their power could continue with the new regime. Excluded from this circle was Benaiah, head of the palace guard, Nathan, the prophet who had confronted David in his sin with Bathsheba, and Zadok, who had become a leading priest in Jerusalem (2Sam 8:17–18). The group of thirty warriors had been loyal to David from the beginning (2Sam 23:8–39) and were not part of the revolt. These alliances were critical for the future of everyone involved. Adonijah was alert to the ambitions of all concerned and had encouraged the division by drawing allies to his own cause.

Adonijah decided that this was the time to make a public move. He prepared a great feast at the spring of En-rogel, a location in the Kidron Valley just south of the city of David. The Serpent’s Stone (Zoheleth) was apparently a well-known landmark in the area. The open space around the spring served as a gathering area for all those allied to Adonijah. It was there that the would-be king rallied his brothers, the royal princes, and influential leaders of the state of Judah. Note is made that the actions of Adonijah were fostered by David’s indulgence (1Kgs 1:6), a situation that had always been problematic in David’s household.

1:11–37 The celebrations at En-rogel demanded that the matter of succession become an immediate decision. They could not go unnoticed by the members of the David court, being only a few hundred meters or yards away. For Nathan the prophet, they were a coronation ceremony of Adonijah without the knowledge of David (1:11). Unless the king acted immediately, his life and even that of Bathsheba, were in danger (1:12). Nathan also knew that Bathsheba had the right of access to the king at any time, the one means at his disposal to intervene in the matter of succession. He was well aware of the special relationship that Solomon had with his father, the son who was called Jedidiah, the one “beloved of the Lord” (2Sam 12:25). David’s remorse over his sin (Ps 51) had resulted in his lifelong special love for Bathsheba and her son. That David had not acted to resolve matters in his family was characteristic of the problem that continuously caused jealousy between his sons. Nathan therefore advises Bathsheba on the very words she must use in gaining an audience with the king (1Kgs 1:13) and the plan of how he would then use that opportunity to come to the king himself (1:14) to persuade him that he must act immediately to inaugurate Solomon. These proceedings then constitute the first scene of the coronation of Solomon as king.

The speech of Bathsheba was designed to compel the king to act immediately (1:15–21). The queen followed all the proper protocols of the court in approaching the king; her status did not give her special privilege in how she addressed the king. By the end of her speech, the king was put under pressure with indication that his oath sworn to her represented an unavoidable danger to her life and that of her son, because after David’s death, Adonijah would alter immediately Solomon’s claim to the throne. This oath had not been mentioned previously, but Nathan could only have endangered his argument by inventing it. As one privy to the king’s inner relationships, he no doubt knew of commitments the king had made by oath in his unique relationship to Solomon that were not made public to the rest of the family.

As planned, before Bathsheba had finished speaking, Nathan was at the court requesting an audience with the king (1:24–27). The message of the advisers regarding the presence of the prophet was to further impress the king with the urgency of the situation, since he had arrived in such a timely manner. The prophet followed all the same protocols in approaching the king. His speech began with a question that is characterized by the intonation of incredulity in verse 24: “Have you really said that Adonijah shall rule after me and sit on my throne?”3 If this was the case, then the king had not kept integrity with him as a prophet nor with Zadok the leading priest (1:27). Nathan repeated the events that had taken place at En-rogel. Those assembled had already declared a coronation of Adonijah with the words “Long live king Adonijah!” (1:25). It was their intent that Adonijah would succeed on the throne immediately upon David’s death.

Nathan’s portrayal of the urgency of the situation demanded that the king act immediately (1:28–37). Bathsheba was called back to the king’s presence. She must be the first to learn of the king’s decision regarding his previous promise. The king took an oath using the language of 2 Samuel 4:9, when he learned of the murder of the son of Saul that would make him king (cf. 1Kgs 1:29). His oath that Solomon would succeed as king was to be executed on this very day. Prophet, priest, and palace guard were brought before the king. Solomon was to ride on David’s own mule to the spring of Gihon, the source of water for Jerusalem in the Kidron valley next to the city of David. There he was to be anointed by priest and prophet with the proclamation of coronation: “May king Solomon live forever!” Benaiah and Jehoida of the palace guard respond affirmatively with “Amen!” and the desire that the Lord God of the king decree it so. Their wish was that the throne of Solomon may be even greater.

The coronation of Solomon created the precedent of a co-regency, a feature that became common in the chronologies of the kings of Israel and Judah. The reign of the future king began before the reign of the monarch had ended. This practice of co-regency becomes normative for a variety of reasons.

1:38–40 The second scene of the coronation itself is given in a report of executing the actions which the king had commissioned in his speech to Bathsheba and the supporting company. Mention was made of the oil brought from the tent (1:39), a reference to the place that David had created for the presence of the ark as reported in 2 Samuel 6:17. The use of oil from the tent of the ark ordains the anointing as divinely commissioned, not merely the desire of the king and his supporters.

The presence of the palace guard was not a part of their official duties, but they represented the authority and power of the kingdom that had been bestowed on the new king. They were referred to as Kerethi and Pelethi, groups that were a part of David’s special forces when he was in the desert. The names indicate their origins as part of the sea peoples associated with Crete and Philistia. David had taken up feudal service with Achish king of Gath and had received Ziklag in perpetuity (1Sam 27:6). These warriors became part of a standing army under the leadership of Benaiah.

The coronation ended with a resounding celebration that moved the land like an earthquake, literary hyperbole for the significance the occasion had for the people. A joyful procession followed with the playing of pipes, as was the case with the transfer of the ark to Jerusalem (2Sam 6:17). The emphasis is on the volume of the jubilation.

1:41–50 The third scene provides a description of the fate of Adonijah. The jubilation at the coronation of Solomon roused the attention of the guests still celebrating at En-rogel. Joab’s inquiry was answered by Jonathan, son of Abiathar the priest. He was the loyal bearer of news for David during the time of Absalom’s rebellion (2Sam 15:27–28, 36). He reported what had just transpired in the bedroom of King David. The account of the investiture of Solomon was given only in this report of Jonathan to Adonijah (1Kgs 1:46–48). This aborted the coup, and the gathered party scattered back to their residences. Adonijah himself sought refuge in the temple in the hope that he might receive mercy.

1:51–53 Adonijah fled to the temple, where he seized the horns of the altar. Altars in ancient times represented the headdress of the gods by extending the stone on each corner of the altar upwards. These horns were a part of the altar representing strength and power like that of an animal. These could be grasped by the hands. In Israel, the altar represented divine power and protection; it was the place a refugee would flee for mercy. Solomon took an oath to protect Adonijah so long as he remained loyal to the king. For the first time, the narrator makes Solomon the center of the action.

The divisions of loyalty in the kingdom seem to have been opportunistic. David acts decisively, with full knowledge of the claims of Adonijah. With his decisive action, the party following Adonijah dissipated, and he was left to plead for his life. The situation would be quite different for Rehoboam at the death of Solomon (see 1Kgs 12).

2:1–11 The scribes of the Former Prophets have structured the narrative of Solomon’s enthronement to provide for the last words of David. These verses preserve David’s commissioning of Solomon to his new role with an exhortation of faithfulness to the divine mandate. The commission of David further supports the actions of Solomon in ending the rivalries present during David’s reign.

First and foremost, David commissioned Solomon to be faithful to the covenant, much as Moses had done for Joshua (1Kgs 2:2–3; cf. Deut 31:6–8; Josh 1:6–9). David also reiterated the conditions of the covenant, which are a theme of the composition of Kings. The eternal promise of the kingdom of God through a son of David was not conditional, as the prophet Ahijah made clear when the kingdom of Solomon came to an end (1Kgs 11:36), but a kingdom of Israel and Judah was conditional. Kings concludes with the story of how that kingdom came to an end. As in Kings, the prophecy of Jeremiah was a warning of the end of the nation, concluding with considerable verbal repetition of 2 Kings 24:18–25:36. Both Jeremiah and 2 Kings make clear that neither the kingdom of God nor the covenant with God come to an end. The lamp of David will not be extinguished; the old covenant will be transformed in a new covenant that converts the mind of the people (Jer 31:31–34). But David warned Solomon of the danger of his kingdom coming to an end. As with Joshua, Solomon must make faithfulness to the covenant the highest priority.

David’s final instructions concerned events that were part of his tumultuous history. There remained a deep division between north and south even after David united the two with a new capital in Jerusalem. At the death of Saul, David incorporated the leading generals of the army of the north into his own defence force (2Sam 3:17–21). Joab considered this a threat to his own position at the head of David’s army and treacherously killed Abner (2Sam 3:26–27), the leader of Saul’s army. This threatened the fragile alliance David had just managed to achieve. After the death of Absalom at the hand of Joab, in a gesture of reconciliation to the military leaders of the revolt, David appointed Amasa to the head of his army (2Sam 19:12–14). In a fit of jealousy, Joab also killed him (2Sam 20:7–10). Joab had put blood on his belt and shoes (1Kgs 2:5), a metaphor for a claim to superiority, but it was achieved through brute force. For these personal vendettas in peacetime, Joab had to be avenged.

A second instruction concerned wealthy landowners across the Jordan who had helped David and his supporters when he fled from Absalom to Mahanaim in the Jabbok valley (2Sam 17:24–29). The descendants of the aged Barzillai were now to be rewarded with the support of the royal treasury for his help. A third instruction concerned Shimei, a relative of Saul living just north-east of Jerusalem in Bahurim. He had cursed David when he was fleeing from Absalom (2Sam 16:5–13). Shimei petitioned for his life when he realized David would retain the throne (2Sam 19:16–21). David, not wishing to risk further rebellion, swore not to kill him (2Sam 19:22–24). But this treachery could not be acquitted (2Kgs 2:9). David could not break his oath, so he left it to his successor to secure the stability of the kingdom against this northern resistance.

A summary of David’s reign includes the time he ruled in Hebron and the years he ruled after he captured Jerusalem and made it his fortress. He was buried in a family tomb, where his ancestors before him had been entombed, a practice designated by the phrase “slept with his fathers.”

Solomon Consolidates His Rule (2:12–46)

2:12 The old Greek manuscripts begin the Book of Kings with this verse, as it introduces the kingdom of Solomon. The end of the reign of David does not follow the usual formula that summarizes the reigns of kings, as may be seen at the end of Solomon’s reign in 1 Kings 11:41–43. The reign of Solomon begins the narrative of the kings of Israel, while the story of David’s reign is given in the Books of Samuel.

2:13–25 The key event in Solomon consolidating his rule is the removal of any rival claim to the throne. Adonijah was assured protection so long as he proved himself worthy (1:53), but he violated this status in making the request through his mother to have Abishag as his wife. She never became an official part of David’s harem but was an officially designated caretaker, which Solomon regarded as equivalent. He interpreted Adonijah’s request as a means to again rally support for his claim to the throne, a violation of the conditions that had been laid on him. This threat was grounds to have him executed at the hands of Benaiah. With his death, the key officials supporting him were also disbanded.

2:26–27 The fate of Abiathar the priest might have been death, as he had sided with Adonijah. Abiathar was one of the priests who escaped the slaughter at Nob and joined David in his early days (1Sam 22:20–23). He was a son of Ahimelek, a survivor of the house of Eli. His punishment was interpreted as a fulfilment of the prophecy against the house of Eli given in 1 Samuel 2:27–36. Abiathar forfeited his right to serve as priest and was banished to his home in Anathoth, a Levitical city five kilometers, or three miles, to the north of Jerusalem. There he would manage his estate near the city as an ordinary Levite.

2:28–35 With the banishment of Abiathar, Joab knows that his time has come. Joab had acted rashly and irresponsibly in the murder of Abner and Amasa, explicitly against the wishes of David. Seeking refuge at the altar in the temple would not spare him (a murderer could be avenged at the altar; see Exod 21:12–14). If the murders committed by Joab were not avenged, it would signify a disregard for the sacred value of life with God, and the guilt would rest with Solomon. Though Joab was executed for murder, he was given the dignity of burial in his home estate near Bethlehem (2Sam 2:32), on the edge of the desert. His death and the banishment of Abiathar provided for the official appointment of Banaiah as military leader and Zadok as priest.

2:36–46 The last episode in the consolidation of the kingdom was the matter of Shimei, the rebel against David. Solomon had him swear that he would not cross the Kidron to his estate at Bahurim, just north-east of Jerusalem in the territory of Benjamin. His influence there would provide a natural centre for other discontented Israelites to rally in resistance against the new kingdom. Shimei accepted the oath, but he violated it by going west into Philistine territory to retrieve some runaway workers. Perhaps he thought that going another direction for another purpose would not be in violation of his vow. He was, however, called to account and was reminded of the real reason for his restriction to Jerusalem as a city of refuge. There was no excuse for his actions. Solomon further reminded Shimei of God’s plan for the kingdom, irrespective of his own loyalties. Banaiah again was assigned to carry out the execution.

A closing statement on the security of the kingdom under the rule of Solomon in 1 Kings 2:46b brings the account to a close by repetition of the motif with which it began in 2:12. These verbal repetitions are a scribe’s way of marking a complete unit within the composition.

The Reign of Solomon (3:1–28)

The narrative of Solomon’s rule is structured by two visions. The first is in 3:4–15, which tells of the divine appearance where Solomon requests wisdom and is also granted wealth and honor. The second is in 9:2–9 following the dedication of the temple, where God warns Israel not to violate the covenant lest this great temple be destroyed. Between these visions is an account of Solomon’s administration, his building projects, and their dedication. Following the second vision, we learn of Solomon’s taxation, his loss of territory, rebellion in his ranks, his disobedience (11:1–6), and the prophetic declaration that only the tribe of Judah would continue under the rule of his successors.

Solomon’s Court (3:1–3)

The reign of Solomon is introduced with a brief sketch of his court before the building projects had taken place. The preceding account tells us that Zadok, Nathan, and Banaiah were official leaders in the court as priest, prophet, and military commander, respectively. Solomon also had close relations with Egypt, the powerful nation to the south that dominated much of Palestine during this time.4 Pharaoh Siamun had his daughter married to Solomon, an alliance that solidified Egypt’s control over Philistia, Edom, and other territories. Solomon brought Pharaoh’s daughter to the city of David, the fortified area just to the south of where the temple and other palace structures would be built and enclosed within the wall of Jerusalem.

Solomon also needed to make provision for worship, especially before the temple was built. Up until the political changes under Hezekiah, people worshiped at shrines that are typically translated as a “high place” (bamah in Hebrew). The name is misleading, because these were not limited to being on a hill—some were even present in Jerusalem (2Chr 34:3).5 This place of worship consisted of a platform of sculpted stones, which could be pulled apart and torn down. Sometimes the platform was no larger than a bed. Generally, other features of worship were associated with such a platform, usually an altar and often standing stones (called a matztzebah), which may have represented persons or deities. They were often located under a tree or a grove of trees called an asherah. In Scripture most of the references to these places are idolatrous worship. Gideon tore down just such a place of idolatrous worship that belonged to his father in Judges 6:25–27, and in its place the Lord commanded him to build a proper altar of worship. This place of worship may not have had a bamah, but such places of worship often had such a stone platform. The worship site at Gibeon did have a bamah and an altar. It was a compromise to worship at a place other than the temple, but so long as these were acts of proper Israelite worship, such a compromise was necessary. It was not possible for even representatives from all the areas of Israel to make a pilgrimage to Shiloh or other places where the tabernacle might have been located. Solomon loved and worshipped the Lord. For him Gibeon was a place of worship.

The Vision at Gibeon (3:4–15)

The Gibeonites, in a somewhat deceptive manner, had made a covenant with Israel at the time of the conquest (Josh 9:3–27). Gibeon was a notable city about eight kilometers, or five miles, west of Jerusalem at the east end of the Aijalon valley. It was famous for its pool and the making of wine. It was also an important place of worship used by the Israelites, especially before the completion of the temple. Solomon went there to offer sacrifice, perhaps to demonstrate the covenant unity between the former Canaanite city and Israel.

The Lord spoke to Solomon in a night vision, a dream in which there was a divine revelation. A postmodern society that elevates humanity as alone being the source of all knowledge has psychological explanations for such dreams, but it is pure religious hubris to think that the only knowledge available comes through empirical observation and deduction of reason. Visions like that of Solomon are personal to the individual and therefore cannot be verified by any outside measure, but that is no reason to dismiss their truth.

The vision begins with a question from God, asking what Solomon desires most as a new king. Solomon showed himself worthy of the question in expressing his inadequacy for the task as someone young and inexperienced, yet well-aware of the distinction of his calling because God was showing his love and faithfulness to the promise to David. The nation that God had called him to lead was “weighty” (1Kgs 3:9), which may mean that they were great in number and therefore difficult to govern. Solomon asked for a “discerning heart” (3:9), which means a mind to know the will of God. Knowing the will of God was to understand what is right and what is wrong in every specific situation, to know the right course of action, especially in difficult and challenging circumstances. God’s response was to give Solomon such wisdom and what he did not ask for: power—especially over enemies—wealth, and honor.

When Solomon woke at Gibeon, he realized that this dream was a vision (3:15), a profound and auspicious beginning to his reign. Upon his return to Jerusalem, he offered sacrifices before the ark, as there was no altar, including “peace offerings,” that were those sacrifices made for the provision of the whole community. It was a tremendous time of celebration.

The Justice of Solomon (3:16–28)

Justice was the ultimate responsibility of the king. Records of ancient Mesopotamian kings show that they kept records of exceptional legal cases presented to their deity as a report that they had acted wisely. The Torah of Moses made provision for local judges (Deut 16:18–20) and a central judiciary for difficult cases (Deut 17:8–13). The most difficult cases came before the king, as when the prophet Nathan came to David with the account of the rich man that had confiscated and killed the poor man’s sheep (2Sam 12:1–4). This is the case of the two women who came before Solomon.

Prostitution was an example of the failure of Israelites to live according to the provisions of the Torah. All Israelites were to be integrated as families, have access to land, and have the means to earn a living. There were always those women who through death or some other misfortune were put outside of the community structure and left to find their own dwelling, as was the case with the women who came to Solomon. No judgment is passed on the lifestyle which these women have been forced to take up.

The judgment of Solomon shows both mercy and justice. These concepts are generally viewed as mutually exclusive, but both are necessary in providing fair judgment in any situation. The harsh circumstances of the women did not excuse the hostility that had come between them. A child had died, and the accusation was that its mother had been careless. Jealousy had provoked this woman to seek possession of the living child of the other or to see it sacrificed to satisfy her own feelings of grief and rage. In wisdom Solomon recognized the reality of this tragic situation and exposed the mother of the dead child by appealing to the compassion of the real mother for her child, who would do what was best for the child, even if it meant giving it up to her rival. Once Solomon knew the identity of the true mother, he did not engage in further punishment of the woman whose child had died. He showed both justice and mercy, providing renewed opportunity for reconciliation.

The account concludes with the purpose of preserving this story (1Kgs 3:28). Solomon had demonstrated the qualities of a good king, just as the Lord had granted them. This brought Israelites to fear the king in a way appropriate for his authority.

The Kingdom of Solomon (4:1–5:18)

The reign of Solomon begins with a description of his kingdom. The information has been derived from official documents but adapted for the purposes of the narrative. These records provide the names of the highest level of officials in the kingdom. These officers show continuity with those listed for David’s kingdom in 2 Samuel 8:14–20 and 20:23–26. Officers change over time, but it is also necessary that officials stay on through changing administrations. The offices of priest and scribe were hereditary. The districts providing for the maintenance of the royal court of Solomon are not according to tribal allocation as given in Joshua but probably reflect economic conditions. All boundaries also change over time due to various circumstances, both political and social, so it cannot be known precisely what the tribal territories were when Solomon began to rule. The administration of the kingdom, however, did not conflict with the tribal order. It is impossible to know the number of personnel that needed to be supported in the royal administration; the quantities of provisions also cannot be known very precisely, as all measures changed over time. Solomon’s military did have substantial chariotry and cavalry, a change from the time of David. This would be necessary in the defence and management of a vast empire. The wisdom and rule of Solomon at the beginning of his reign are given in ideal terms.

The Royal Administration (4:1–6)

The first officials named are the priests in the line of Zadok after the banishment of Abiathar. The mention of Abiathar along with Zadok in 1 Kings 4:4 is to provide a complete list of all the priests from the records according to scribal practice. It is often assumed that Zadok was a hereditary priest in the tradition of Jebus, the city David made as his capital, but Chronicles includes Zadok in the genealogy of priests from Aaron in 1 Chronicles 6:1–8. The new kingdom required scribes to maintain official documents and carry out correspondence with neighboring states. A spokesman (recorder) carried out messages between the king and the people. The role of Benaiah was elevated from that of the palace guard to head of a standing army. This was also likely an innovation of Solomon, a change from times of Saul and David when tribal delegates were conscripted in a time of war. The division of the kingdom into districts to provide for the royal court required the appointment of regional officers (prefects). Their work was presided over by one chief officer at the palace (1Kgs 4:5a). The king’s personal confidant (the friend of the king) was someone regarded as part of the royal family, perhaps friend of the bridegroom, but who came to hold official office. There appears to be a reliance on Egyptian governance structures, as Solomon had close relations with Egypt. The officer in charge of the palace (4:6a) was responsible for all the royal buildings and properties. The final officer listed had responsibility for conscripted service (mas in Hebrew), a hated kind of tax in which a citizen’s time had to be given to projects of the kingdom. Solomon used such service in annual rotations for his building projects.

Twelve Administrative Districts (4:7–19)

The districts of Solomon’s kingdom were provided from official documents that listed the names of the deputies or prefects that were responsible for each territory. The areas are described in two different ways: a tribal territory, or a group of cities. Five of the names given are a simple patronym (“a son of”); six others have a fuller identification. This may have something to do with the preservation of the document used by the scribes.

The districts were created according to geographical areas that formed agricultural, social, and ethnic units. These districts were related to the organization of the kingdom as David established it.

  1. District One (4:8) corresponds to the tribe of Ephraim from the hill country around Bethel to the Jordan valley.
  2. District Two is a list of cities north of the Philistines along the Mediterranean to the area of Joppa.
  3. District Three continues up the coast identified by Socoh in the Sharon plain, then a heavily forested area, swampy along the coast, with little population.
  4. District Four was the coastal area south of mount Carmel; the city of Dor was one of the few ports on the Mediterranean.
  5. District Five was governed by Baana (4:12), the first governor to have a name. It is a list of cities that define the Jezreel valley from Megiddo in the west to the Jordan at Beth-shean.
  6. District Six was east of the Jordan from Gilead north to the territory of Bashan up to the borders of areas controlled by Damascus.
  7. District Seven governed by Ahinadab (4:14), the second name in the list, extended from the city of Mahanaim in the Jabbok valley south to the plain of Heshbon on the border of Moab.
  8. District Eight was governed by Ahimaaz, the tribal territory of Naphtali west of the sea of Galilee.
  9. Baana son of Hushai governed District Nine, the tribal territory of Asher in western Galilee along the Mediterranean.
  10. Jehoshaphat governed District Ten, the tribal territory of Issachar, the northern part of the Jezreel valley, the southern hills of Galilee to the Jordan river.
  11. Shimei governed Benjamin, north of Jerusalem (4:18), which was District Eleven.

At 4:19 there seems to be confusion in the various versions of Kings. Geber and his territory in Bashan have already been listed in 4:13. This appears to be an accidental duplication. Further, there is no mention of Judah or District Twelve. The text simply says, “there was one governor in the land” (4:19b), which has been paraphrased as “he was the only governor over the district.” Josephus, a Jewish historian in the Roman period, interpreted this to mean there was a governor over all the others (Antiquities 8. Furthermore, according to 4:7, there were twelve districts with each one responsible to provide for the king and his court one month of the year. It is likely that the name of Judah has accidentally dropped out of the list, since 4:20 begins with the name Judah, and that its governor is not named. There is no reason why Judah would not be included in the territories, as it was the most central tribe as the home of the king.

Kingdom of Peace (4:20–34)

The reign of Solomon is described in ideal terms (4:20), a proverbial picture of wealth and security that is the boast of ancient kings. An example is the statute of the Syrian monarch Panamuwa, king of Samal, who describes his reign as a happy time of eating and drinking. The territory Solomon could tax, the provisions of his court and his military, and his vast wisdom are to illustrate the greatness of his kingdom.

4:20–25 The territory of Solomon’s taxation is described in the ideal terms of the promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:18 (cf. 1Kgs 4:21). “The River” refers to the Euphrates, the northern boundary of the land of Syria. The border of Egypt is the wadi of Arish south of Gaza (a wadi is a river valley that flows only when it rains). The kingdom is further described as being from Tiphsah, assumed to be on the Euphrates, to Gaza, the most southern city of the Philistines (4:24). Israel, the area of Solomon’s governance, is given the traditional description of Dan to Beersheba (4:25), the most northern and southern cities of the tribes. Everyone is said to reside under their own groves of grapes and figs, an ideal picture given in the prophets (e.g., Mic 4:4), meaning that everyone has their own property for food provision on which they are secure.

The provisions listed for one day are difficult to quantify. There are no comparable figures for the number of people supported in the whole palatial establishment, but it would have been in the tens of thousands. A kor is an Akkadian word that refers to the amount of grain a donkey can carry, elsewhere called a homer. It is a measure of quantity rather than weight, though the quantity is often calculated by weight. The itemized foods are grains that can be stored along with animals fattened in pens or hunted in the open range. The identity of “fattened fowl” is unknown, but it may refer to a delicacy.

4:26–28 The Hebrew text says Solomon had 40,000 stalls of horses (1Kgs 4:26), but most translations correct that number to 4,000, as in 2 Chronicles 9:25. We are told that Solomon had 1,400 chariots in 1 Kings 10:26, where he is said to have 12,000 horses. In Akkadian the same word for stall also refers to a team. It may be that a stall was three horses and that each team of two had a replacement, which accounts for the 12,000 horses. It is ambiguous whether the 12,000 parashim are riders or horses. In ancient times there were three men to a chariot, so the figure could refer to the number of men in each chariot or the total number of horses.

The prefects or governors of the twelve districts provided for the military as well as all the others supported in the king’s court (4:27). The taxation system never allowed for a shortfall. Not all of the deliveries came to Jerusalem. The swift cavalry and the trained chariot teams were stationed in different cities, where supplies of barley and straw would be brought as determined by the regulations. This section concludes the account of how Solomon administered his kingdom.

4:29–34 Solomon had a wide breadth of knowledge besides the wisdom granted him for the governance of the kingdom. It is said to exceed that of the easterners, which seems to be a reference to the area of Arabia, where Proverbs quotes the teachings of Agur and Lemuel. A vast array of writings is known from Egypt; some sayings of Amenemope have a close parallel to Proverbs 22:17–23:11. Solomon was also prominent in music; Ethan and Heman have a tradition in the psalter (Pss 88, 89). “Sons of Mahol” was a class of musicians or dancers. Some of Solomon’s proverbs are preserved in the collection of Proverbs 10:1–22:16—375 according to the number of his name. Ancient wisdom also included what we call science, as may be seen in the mining operation described in Job 28:1–10. Classification of plants and animals is an important means of being able to live in harmony with the world of what moderns call nature.

Solomon’s Relationship with Hiram (5:1–12)

In the structure of Kings, this unit begins the introduction to the building projects of Solomon. The description of the buildings themselves is a separate section, but both preparation and the buildings are part of the operation of the kingdom. In this section, we learn how Solomon’s achievements depend on his commercial relationship with the Phoenicians, his immediate neighbors to the north.

5:1 Relationships with Phoenicia did not begin with Solomon. According to custom, Hiram sent greetings to Solomon. Tyre was an island fortress not connected to the mainland until the conquests of Alexander the Great. Hiram was the second king in a dynasty established by his father. Tyre was an independent city state founded in the third millennium.

5:2–6 Solomon responded to Hiram in terms of his intent to build a temple. It was typical that a new king would erect a temple as a tribute to his God. David was not able to do so because his life’s work was to establish the empire. Now was a time of peace when Solomon could follow through on the intent of his father. A house for the name of the Lord is a reference to the requirement of Moses (Deut 16:6). The name of the king indicated his dominion over that place; Solomon was declaring that the Lord is king and must have a palace, something Hiram would understand readily. Solomon requested the help of Hiram because of his resources and expertise in building. The cedars of Lebanon attained thirty meters or one hundred feet in height and were famed for their strength in buildings. The task of cutting and transporting them required special skills.

5:7–11 Hiram was happy to comply with Solomon’s request. Shipping such heavy, long trunks required special techniques. They would be tied together in a bundle, forming a kind of raft, which presumably was pulled by ship. At the harbor, the bundles needed to be broken up and the long trunks carried by wagon on roads that would need to be fortified for the purpose. Solomon in turn would supply agricultural products to Hiram, whose mountainous territory did not provide sufficient food. The quantities given are large; by modern measurements they would be over 50,000 bushels of grain and 100,000 gallons of purified oil, according to the Greek version. These would be far beyond annual capabilities of export in Israel. Contributions were given annually, but the actual numbers appear to be the total over the years.

5:12 The agreement is described as a covenant, a term usually used for political treaties. It conveys the peaceful and agreeable nature of the relationship that was much more than just commercial. The language implies a national alliance made in a parity type of relationship with the trade agreements as a subset of the terms.

Solomon’s Conscripted Work Force (5:13–19)

Solomon’s conscripted wood workers included 30,000 men for one-quarter of the year on a rotation of one month in Lebanon and two months at their home. In addition to the wood workers, there were 70,000 transporting materials and 80,000 quarrying rock in the hills of Palestine. There were 3,300 supervising officials, providing one officer for every thirty-five workers. Large stones hewn into shape for the foundation of the temple were naturally very expensive. The city of Gebal was the most northern boundary of the promised land (Josh 13:5), known to the Greeks as Byblos, perhaps because this was where material was obtained for making books. These were specialized workers that prepared the wood and stone for temple construction.

Solomon’s Building Projects (6:1–7:12)

The building projects and temple artifacts constitute the core of the account of Solomon’s reign. The dedication prayer and the placing of the divine name in chapter 8 are a part of the building report but are very different content. Two divine visions frame this core.

There are no remains of the buildings constructed by Solomon. The whole area has been destroyed and rebuilt, so nothing can be traced back to the iron age. The layout is known from other historical references and the general example of palace areas of the time. The temple faced to the east, as had the tabernacle. It was on the highest part of the hill, north of the city of David. The other royal buildings were south from the temple and less prominent, even though they were much bigger. The actual configuration of the buildings described is by necessity conjectural based on the interpretation that can be gleaned from this brief description in Kings.

The Temple (6:1–7:1)

6:1 The time of the temple building is an important theological statement. It is not meant to be historical information so much as an indication of the new era of the beginning of the kingdom of God. The date is given in terms of the exodus, which was when the fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham was initiated. This is now 12 generations later, given as 480 years, when God has now established his king. It was the very beginning of Solomon’s reign when the actual construction began to take place. Historical calculations would place this date at about 960 BC.

6:2–3 The dimensions of the temple were twice those of the tabernacle (cf. Exod 26:15–30).6 The building was sixty cubits in length and twenty cubits in width. It was thirty cubits high, allowing for the construction of the storage and utility rooms around the outside. There was also a porch in front of the main temple the width of the temple and ten cubits deep. The height of the porch is not given, suggesting that it was open without a roof or doors.

6:4 The terminology for the windows does not make their function clear. If the pattern followed that of a similar temple excavated at `Ain Dara in northern Syria,7 the windows were ornamental and are described as “framed and blocked.” The excavated windows had reliefs of figure-eight-shaped ribbons in the upper half. Light and ventilation would have been provided through openings high on the wall.

6:5–10 The temple at `Ain Dara again helps us understand the construction intended for the side rooms. A platform of large stones extended around the three sides of the building, which served as a foundation for the storage rooms on the sides. The stone walls of the temple were recessed at each level to allow for the attachment of the side chamber. Each recess allowed for an extra cubit in width to the side chamber. The wide base of the walls enabled them to support the heavy weight of the upper levels and the roof. The storage rooms were entered by a door at the lower level on the south side (1Kgs 6:8). The upper levels were accessed from the inside through a spiral stair. The roof of the temple was constructed with rows of beams forming square recesses, which were panelled. The side chambers were each five cubits in height, so the three levels were half the height of the walls.

The use of rough stones as taken from the quarry (6:7) conformed to the requirement that an altar was to be built of natural stone that had not been shaped by tools (Exod 20:25). This distinguished Israelite worship from the Canaanite altars, which would often be adorned with images of the gods.

6:11–14 The Book of Kings, as the others of the Former Prophets, is regularly punctuated with the exhortations of the covenant as we find them in the Book of Deuteronomy. The account has described the stone structure of the temple, providing the nature (whole stones) and shape of the building. This insertion served as a reminder of the purpose and value of the building as a visual confession of the relationship the people have with God.

6:15–18 The inside of the temple area was panelled with cedar planks from the floor to the roof. The floor was covered with juniper planks, as perhaps the softer wood was an advantage. A wood floor is something of an anomaly in ancient buildings, which are usually packed earth or stone paving. A wall of twenty cubits (the width of the temple) separated the most holy place from the main hall. The main hall was forty cubits in length. The stone walls were all covered with planks engraved with something like chain links and open flowers.

6:19–22 The most holy place where the ark would be placed was made to be a perfect cube of twenty cubits in dimension. Since the building was thirty cubits in height, the inner shrine was a raised platform, like a throne in a palace, with steps leading up to it. The inner shrine was covered with refined gold. The separation to the most holy place had golden chains hung across the panelling (1Kgs 6:21). The entire interior of the temple was covered with gold as well as the altar of incense, which stood in front of the most holy place.

6:23–28 The rule of Yahweh in the most holy place was represented by a symbolic throne formed by two cherubim carved out of pine wood. Engravings of cherubim are common on the thrones of Canaanite kings before and during the time of Solomon. They are composite figures with a human head, eagle wings, body of a lion, and feet of an ox. The cherubim in Ezekiel’s visions are a variant visionary version. This passage focuses on their height and the wings. They were ten cubits in height, half of the space of the most holy place. Each wing was five cubits, the wingspan of each was ten cubits. The wings of each cherub touched in the middle, and they touched the walls on the outside. Each was covered with gold. They filled the most holy place as a representative throne. God is said to rule from the cherubim (Pss 18:11; 99:1; 2Kgs 19:15). Prayers address God as the one who rules from the cherubim.

6:29–30 The walls of the most holy place were covered with engravings of cherubim, palms, and open flowers all plated with gold. The entire floor of the room was also covered with gold.

6:31–35 The doors to the most holy place were made of pine wood. They were one-fifth of the width of the wall (1Kgs 6:31); the wall was twenty cubits wide (the width of the temple), making the doors four cubits in width. The second door to the holy place was larger, a fourth of the wall (6:33), that is, five cubits wide. Alternately, the term “fifth” may be referring to the door frames, that is, five recessing frames on a thick wall, an ornamental feature known in ancient times. The second door to the hall then had four recessing frames.8 The doors were engraved with cherubim, palms, and open flowers covered with gold as were the walls. The gold was hammered into the engravings so they could be seen (6:35). The panels of the doors to the main temple were made of juniper wood constructed with hinges, possibly in the manner of folding doors, engraved and covered with gold. A short corridor linked the doors of the most holy place and the main temple due to the thickness of the stone wall between them.

6:36 Solomon also built an inner court with three rows of hewn stone and one row of cut cedar beams. The wood beams would provide stability to the wall. The height of the wall is not given. The inner wall enclosed the temple and separated it from the king’s palace. A second wall surrounded the temple and the public buildings forming the great court.

6:37–7:1 The temple was founded in the fourth year and finished in the eleventh year, a total time of seven years and six months. This is rounded off as seven years, the complete amount of time needed for the construction. The time shows that the building projects were in sequence. The temple received a priority, and Solomon did not build anything else until it was complete.

Palace Complex (7:2–12)

7:2–5 The first royal building described is the great hall referred to as the “forest of Lebanon” because of the 45 cedar pillars (which came from Lebanon) 30 cubits in height (over 13 meters, or 45 feet). It was 100 cubits (46 meters, or 150 feet) long and 50 cubits (23 meters, or 75 feet) wide, about the size of half of an American football field. The brevity of the description and uncertainty of the meaning of some of the technical terms allow only an approximate description. The four rows of pillars created three long halls, but if the walls served as outside supports, there would be five long halls. Cedar beams over the pillars provided support for the pillars and a structure for the cedar panelling of the roof. The use of this building as an armoury (1Kgs 10:17) required storage rooms, possibly three levels along each of the side halls. The ground level may have been entirely open to allow for a large assembly. Access to the building was provided through square doors, possibly one on each of the short walls and two on the long walls, all opposite each other. The windows were between the doors on the long sides. Access to upper levels would be through stairs within the building.

7:6–8 A separate hall of pillars was made with the same length as the width of the “Lebanon Forest” and half as wide as it was long. The height of these pillars is not given. It seems the hall of pillars was the throne hall where justice was determined and had a pillared porch in front of it with some type of ramp or balustrade and was panelled with cedar within.

The prophetic authors had little interest in the secular buildings. If the excavations of other palace areas in Syria are to serve as an example, there were two buildings besides the temple, namely “the Lebanon Forest” and the palace structure called the hall of justice (7:6–7). This latter hall contained both the palace of Solomon and the palace of Pharaoh’s daughter. The palace area was behind the public hall but could be accessed from it. The palace area would also have access to the temple area. All that is said about the palaces is that they were of the same structure, which must mean they had a main hall with side rooms. Given the size of Solomon’s retinue, his palace must have been by far the largest area in the hall of pillars.

7:9–12 The masonry work was of high quality. For the foundations, large ashlars about three to four meters long were hewn to precision. Stones for the walls were cut to measure and smoothed over with a tool to give the wall a smooth, finished appearance from the foundation to the roof overhang. A court around the buildings was constructed with three layers of hewn stone and a row of cedar planks. This enclosed the entire area along with the court of the temple.

The Temple Artifacts (7:13–51)

The account of the artifacts describes first the bronze work (7:13–47) and then the gold work (7:48–50), ending with a concluding notice (7:51). Neither Exodus nor Kings give attention to the actual function of the temple, but a great deal of attention is given to the craftsmanship and the furnishings, much like the tabernacle in Exodus. It was understood that the temple represented the divine palace from which God ruled, as becomes clear in Solomon’s prayer.

The Ornamental Pillars (7:13–22)

7:13–14 The craftsman from Tyre had the same name as the king, which means something like “my brother is exalted.” Israelites had mixed with Phoenicians from the days of the judges, as Asher continued to live among the various cities on the Phoenician coast (Judg 1:31–32). Phoenicians were skilled in metal work just as in wood and stone.

7:15–22 The Hebrew text of this passage has suffered disruptions. Verse 19 repeats most of verse 16 and has a different measurement. Verse 22 repeats the information of the lily shape given in verse 19. The general appearance of the two pillars can be ascertained. They were made of bronze, were about nine meters, or thirty feet, in height, were hollow in the center (cf. Jer 52:21), and the metal had the thickness of about four fingers. The circumference of each pillar was about five meters, or sixteen feet, and they were about two meters, or seven feet, in diameter. Each pillar had a capital with a height just over two meters, or seven feet, and the top of each was shaped like a lily. Beneath the top were seven festoons of lattice work to give the capital an ornate appearance. Two rows of pomegranates hung from each festoon (7:18), and each row consisted of 200 pomegranates (7:20, 42). The capitals were fastened to the pillars with a join that formed some type of bulge just below the ornamentation (7:20). The significance of the pillars is in their names. The pillar to the north was called Jachin, which signifies, “Yahweh will establish the throne of David.” The pillar to the south was called Boaz, which is a short form for “in strength the king will rejoice.” Such ornamentation was common to the entrance of ancient temples, calling for the blessing of the gods.

The Sea and the Wash Basins (7:23–51)

7:23–26 The large water container in the court area of the temple is called the “sea.” This is not only because of its size, but the name also designates its symbolism. This large container could serve no practical purpose; the enormous quantity of water was not accessible. “Sea” is the term used for whatever may be conceived as antecedent to creation (Pss 24:1–2; 74:12–17). “Sea” is one of the symbols of the temple used to depict God’s creative work and his provision for creation.

The water container is described as over four meters, or thirteen feet, in diameter and over two meters, or seven feet, in height. The shape is not specified and may have been cylindrical or a bowl. It was inscribed with two rows of gourds beneath the rim that curved outwards like a cup. The volume, calculated from the remains of a jar representing a royal “bath,” was about 44 cubic meters, 44,000 liters, or about 11,000 gallons. This tank rested on twelve bulls, three in each direction, all facing outward.

7:27–39 Water for washing was provided by ten containers set in stands along the sides of the temple. If the bronze sea represents the pre-creation river, the lavers along each side may have represented its branches (Ps 46:5). The structure supporting these containers was about two meters/yards long, two meters/yards wide, and about one and one-half meters/yards in height. Obscure terminology prevents very precise knowledge of the actual appearance of these lavers. The following interpretation is based in part on a wheeled laver found in Cyprus, dated about the time of Moses (Othmar Keel, The Symbolism of the Biblical World, The base of the stand was structured as a metal frame with side panels that were highly decorated with lions, oxen, cherubim, and spiral work (possibly a guilloche pattern) created with hammering of the metal (7:28–29). The metal frames stood on four wheels fitted with axels. The corners of the stand beneath the basin were fitted with a support engraved with spirals on each side (7:30). The frame was fitted with a round opening for the metal basin that extended about a half meter, or about two feet, above the stand. The basin was a little less than a meter/yard in diameter. The basin was also decorated with some type of interweaving (guilloche) or spiral engravings. The wheels with their structures were a little less than a meter/yard in height. The wheels were like those of a chariot, with the rims, spokes, and hubs all made of cast metal. The supports of the wheels were made a part of the frame at each corner. Each laver contained a little less than a cubic meter of water (880 litres), or about 220 gallons. All ten water stands followed an identical pattern. They were symmetrically arranged with five located along the south temple wall and five along the north temple wall (7:39). The sea itself was set further to the east and on the south side.

7:40–47 These verses are a summary of all the bronze work for the temple that has just been described. Included here are tools known from the tabernacle, such as pots, shovels, and rakes (cf. Exod 27:3). The bowls would have been used for cooking, perhaps the handling of the blood and the suet; shovels and rakes would be used to take care of ashes. The bowls at the top of the pillars (7:41) have not been mentioned previously, but judging by Akkadian parallels, they seem to be the equivalent of the “belly” (7:20) on which the capitals rested. The lattice work is mentioned again with the clarification that there were 200 pomegranates hung from each of the festoons (7:42). The smelting was all done in the northern part of the Jordan valley, in the area of Sukkot, on the north side of the Jabbok river. The heavy soil of the Jordan valley served for the moulds of the smelted metal. If the bronze of the pillars and the great sea are taken into consideration, it is no exaggeration to say it could not be weighed.

7:48–50 The gold work pertained to all the items within the temple building. The altar of incense and the table holding the bread were part of the daily ritual indicating the presence and provision of God. These were both plated with gold. There were five lampstands (known in English as a menorah) to the south and north of the entrance to provide light in the building. Tongs would be needed to adjust the wicks. The basins may have been used for oil, snuffers for the lights, bowls for sprinkling incense, and ladles and firepans probably for furnishing the incense altar. Gold “sockets” or hinges for the doors do not make sense since gold is a very soft metal. The referent is uncertain, but some rabbis and modern interpreters think it might refer to a golden key.

7:51 With the completion of all the royal buildings, the valuable metals and objects that David had gathered could be moved into a final place of storage. These were all cumulated as part of the royal treasury.

The Temple Dedication (8:1–66)

This passage is particularly important to the theology of the temple found in the Psalms and various incidental references. The ark is a footstool to a throne, and it contained the terms of the covenant of God with his people. The temple was a place within creation that represented the rule of God over creation. The presence of God is in no sense confined to the temple; God created space and is not confined by it. For the people to experience God as their king, they must faithfully keep their covenant relationship.

The Installation of the Ark (8:1–21)

8:1–2 The assembling of all Israel took place in the seventh month, the month of the fall festival. This month might have been chosen because it was the time of the blowing of the trumpets and the beginning of the year when representatives of Israel would normally come to Jerusalem. It would be an appropriate occasion to celebrate the completed palace of God symbolizing his rule.

8:3–5 This was the official transition from the tent structure of the wilderness to a permanent structure in the place of God’s choice. The tent and all of its artifacts were transferred into the storage rooms of the temple. The ark itself was a distinct ceremony, carried properly by the priests to its permanent position in the most holy place. Appropriate offerings were made as part of the ceremony, in quantities sufficient in number to make this the most distinguished public event.

8:6–9 The ark was placed under the wings of the cherubim. Both depict a throne that was unusual, with huge cherubim and no seat. Cherubim normally constituted the sides of a chair. The Israelite God cannot be conceived in human form. The cherubim were enormous, filling the whole throne room as given in their description, so they formed a kind of covering for the footstool rather than the sides of a throne. The poles remained a permanent feature of the ark to facilitate handling it and are perpetually visible as the priests approached the most holy place. It was important for all to know that the testimony of the covenant written by the finger of God was contained in the ark.

8:10–13 The placing of the ark in the most holy place resulted in a divine epiphany equivalent to that of the completion of the tabernacle in Exodus 40:34–38. There the glory cloud filled the building that precluded all admittance of humans. This divine presence was the equivalent of the revelation at the mountain (Exod 19:16–20); the glory cloud appeared on the mountain as a thick darkness protecting the people from seeing the divine glory directly. This glory then directed the Israelites on their wilderness journeys; it appeared as a dark cloud by day and had a luminous quality at night. The glory cloud filling the temple at its dedication was the divine demonstration that this was the place where the experience of the revelation of Sinai was represented forever.

The darkness concealing the divine presence was further interpreted by the words of Solomon. The glory appeared with the coming of a thick darkness, but the most holy place containing the ark and the cherubim was also a deep darkness. This was a way of representing the holiness of God; it was a declaration that God is separate from all that is in creation, as represented in the holy place. Nothing in creation can be compared to God (Isa 40:18, 25); only darkness could represent the holiness of God who created light, space, and time. Solomon spoke of this as the place where God dwelled (1Kgs 8:12). In ancient terminology, a king set his name on a place to indicate that he ruled there. Of many examples, two letters written from Jerusalem to the Egyptian Pharaoh about the time of Moses make this point. The vassal says, “the king has set his name upon the land of Jerusalem forever (Amarna Letters 287, lines 60–61), and again “the king has placed his name on the east and the west (Amarna Letters 288, lines 5–6). The temple in Jerusalem now became the place representing the rule of the God of glory over all the earth.

8:14–21 With the ark in place, Solomon turned to address the people with the promise that God had made to David his father. Solomon reiterated this promise as a blessing, beginning with the redemption of Israel from Egypt when God determined that he would choose a place for his name to dwell (Deut 12:4–5; 16:6). God had further chosen David to be ruler over the people. David had desired to build the house that would represent God’s rule, but his task was to establish the kingdom (cf. 1Kgs 5:17). God had designated Solomon to build the temple, which was now complete. The ark that contained the tablets of the covenant that God made at Sinai was at last in the place that God would choose. Solomon had fully executed David’s plans.

Dedicatory Prayer (8:22–66)

8:22–26 As Solomon stood before the altar in the court addressing the people, he stretched his arms toward heaven and prayed. He addressed the incomparable God as the one who had faithfully kept his covenant with his people in carrying out his purpose. His prayer now concerned the promise to David in particular, that there may always be someone on the throne of Israel to represent the kingdom God promised. The sons of David who succeed on the throne must follow the ways of the covenant for the kingdom of David to continue. Solomon prayed that this word may be established.

8:27–30 The presence of God was in no sense localized to the temple Solomon had built. The temple was not for God; it was to serve as the confession of the people about their God. Their God was the holy one in the thick darkness. He was in no sense dependent on creation. Those within creation, however, must address the Creator who gives and sustains life. Solomon prayed that this place may serve to facilitate that prayer. Those who prayed toward the place where God had placed his name would know that his rule emanated from there. The God who dwelt in heaven would hear.

The petition of the prayer was made in terms of the necessity of keeping the covenant (cf. 1Kgs 8:25). Complete fidelity is never possible, and there is always a need for forgiveness. In giving the covenant, Moses had set before Israel life and death, a blessing and a curse (Deut 30:15–18). Sin will bring about the punishment of a curse. Solomon proceeded to set out seven circumstances in which Israel would need to be forgiven and delivered from a curse laid upon them.

8:31–32 The first instance is the case of theft or something lost where one neighbor accuses the other of misappropriating property, as in Exodus 22:7–9. If a thief is caught, he must repay the amount plus damages. But if theft cannot be demonstrated, there is no way of determining guilt or innocence. In such cases oaths are taken before God, here described as being made before the altar in the temple court. Solomon’s prayer was that justice may always be served, with truth prevailing for the innocent and the guilty receiving the punishment of his own deeds.

8:33–40 War, drought, and famine were typical curses of the covenant when its terms were violated. The second speech of Moses in Deuteronomy in which the terms of the covenant are given (Deut 4:44–28:69) concludes with the usual blessings and curses. These three scourges were specifically named as the curses that would fall upon Israel for disobedience: war (Deut 28:7, 25); drought (28:23–24); and famine with all its associated plagues and diseases (28:21–22). In his dedication prayer, Solomon was asking that God would forgive and remove these curses when his people suffered for their disobedience.

8:41–43 The covenant given by Moses was seen to be the wisdom of Israel among all the nations (Deut 4:6–8). The covenant was always inclusive of all those that wished to join and become a part of the people of Israel, though not landowners within Israel (Exod 12:48–50). Solomon, however, spoke of those that had not joined Israel but simply knew of God’s redemptive acts and would pray to seek his mercy. All peoples of all lands should know that this temple represented the rule of the King of all kings.

8:44–53 Solomon’s petition that God may always pay attention to the prayers directed to his temple concludes with the themes of war and exile. Defeat in war was always a sign of divine judgment (1Kgs 8:46) because victory was always dependent on God and not on human strength. The ultimate defeat was to be taken captive and led off into exile, the situation that is described in these last two situations. Even in exile the people could pray towards this temple and plead for God’s forgiveness expecting that he would hear and show his mercy. The condition for such forgiveness is a change of mind. Those taken captive (nishbu) and in that far away land could turn (shabu) and petition God for his mercy (8:47). Even that desolate situation is not outside of God’s hearing. Return from exile, the ultimate punishment for covenant disobedience, was always a possibility. God’s promises did not leave them past the point of no return.

8:54–61 Solomon had raised his hands towards heaven before the altar, but he had also knelt on his knees. At the conclusion of his prayer, he rose and conferred a benediction on all the people in the language characteristic of the speeches of Moses in Deuteronomy. God is to be blessed who has not allowed a single word of his promises to fail so that all his people may be devoted in mind to keep his covenant. The result is that all the people of the world may know that there can be no other God in heaven like that of Israel (1Kgs 8:60; cf. Deut 4:35, 39). God’s purposes are not only for those redeemed from Egypt, for all the world belongs to him.

8:62–66 The dedication of the temple concluded with a great public celebration during the festival days of the feast of booths in the seventh month (cf. 1Kgs 8:2; cf. Deut 16:13, 15). The eighth day was a special day of assembly in which all the people were dismissed. The altar in the court was insufficient in size for the number of the offerings made for all the people, so Solomon turned the stone platform in the court of the people into a temporary altar that could accommodate the festivities. Peace offerings were the one sacrifice where the food was for the entire community. The celebrations extended in total for fourteen days, which may indicate that the temple celebrations were an extra seven days following the seven days of booths. They included all the people from Hamath in Syria on the Orontes River to the temporary stream of Arish that marked the border with Egypt on the Mediterranean. The dedication of the temple was an event without parallel in the history of Israel.

Completion of the Building Projects (9:1–10:29)

The first vision at Gibeon followed Solomon’s inauguration in which he was granted wisdom to rule a great nation. The second vision was a reply to Solomon’s prayer at the temple. It warned of the necessity to keep the covenant, with exile being the consequence of unfaithfulness.

The vision was followed by numerous details associated with the building projects of twenty years. These were both international and domestic, but mostly they portrayed the grandeur of Solomon’s work.

Second Vision of Solomon (9:1–9)

9:1–2 The second vision was an assurance that God has heard the prayer of Solomon. The manner and the place in which this vision was received are not specified. It was a dream like the one at Gibeon, which would indicate that Solomon was engaged in preparation for worship as previously. It appears to be an immediate answer to Solomon’s prayer before the people. The narrative separates it from the prayer, indicating it was in conjunction with the sacrifices of dedicatory celebrations which followed for two weeks. These details are subordinated to the importance of its message.

9:3–5 God first assured Solomon that his prayer had been heard. He had dedicated the temple to the purpose of representing his rule. God promised to hear the prayers of all people directed there. Furthermore, Solomon personally must follow in the faithfulness of David his father; that was by no means without failure, but it did involve confession and forgiveness (Pss 32; 51). Solomon was assured that the lamp of David (cf. 1Kgs 15:4) would never be snuffed out.

9:6–9 Despite God’s promise concerning the house of David, the same was not true for his kingdom or the marvelous temple that had just been dedicated. God’s response now turned to the plural, so the message was directed not only to Solomon but to all the people as well. If they were not devoted solely to God, the whole nation would be cut off from the land with the temple razed to the ground, which would strike horror into everyone that should see it. The story of Israel would become proverbial as a tale of the curses of the covenant and the error of thinking that devotion to God could be compromised. The reason for the destruction would be transparent to all that pass by. The grace of God in redemption does not preclude his judgment when his people forget their dependence on their redeemer.

Commercial Aspects of the Kingdom (9:10–28)

9:10–14 A few details are given about Solomon’s political relations with Tyre. Solomon granted Hiram a territory of twenty cities, but the time is vague. It was ambiguously related to payment for building supplies that are mentioned. The boundary location of the territory is also unknown. It was south of Acco on the border between Israel and Tyre. The episode may have been a boundary dispute with Tyre, as these borders were unsettled at the time. Hiram provided Solomon with 120 talents of gold, a huge amount of four to five tons. Perhaps, Hiram was looking for a more beneficial border settlement considering the vast amount of gold he was providing. The Phoenicians likely obtained such quantities of gold through trade.

9:15–19 Not all the construction activity was limited to the buildings in Jerusalem. Much of it was dedicated to defense. This included walls and supports on hill slopes in Jerusalem. Three major fortified cities from the north to the south were Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer. Gezer was captured by Pharaoh, who had a lot of influence in Canaan, and given to Solomon as a dowry for his daughter. Three other cities served as military bases in the south part of Judah: Lower Beth-horon, Baalath, and Tamar (this is a city in the grasslands of Judah, not Tadmor in norther Syria). Solomon’s fortifications included storage supplies and chariotry, something David never had.

9:20–23 All ancient kings used conscripted labor for their building projects. Solomon recruited these from the non-Israelites who continued to live in Canaan. While these formed his labor force on a continuing basis, there were times when Israelites were also involved in rotating state service (cf. 1Kgs 5:13). There were 550 chief supervisors to manage the workers in the different locations. Israelites served as military officers and in chariot forces (9:22b).

9:24–25 Note is made that Solomon observed the festal times as required by Moses (Exod 23:14–19; Deut 16:16–17). These were the main occasions of temple pilgrimage. Pharaoh’s daughter had a status separate from all the other women of the harem, signifying the importance of the Egyptian alliance.

9:26–28 Solomon’s trade overseas involved his partnership with the Phoenicians since they were the ones that were skilled and qualified for ship building as well as sea travel. His port in the south was Elath on the Gulf of Aqaba. Ophir is likely to be identified with southern Arabia, the home of the Queen of Sheba.

Visit of the Queen of Sheba (10:1–13)

10:1–5 Sheba and Ophir are mentioned in the table of nations as descendants of Shem, that is Semites (Gen 10:28–29), along with other names from southern Arabia, in the present area of Yemen. These names are not the same as other Arab names known from Assyrian inscriptions, suggesting ancient trade links of Israel. Diplomatic visits are customary, but this account is given to demonstrate the extent of Solomon’s fame, both in geographical extent as well as achievement. As is fitting for a great monarch, the queen came with a great retinue and wealth of her own kingdom.

10:6–9 Words failed to describe what the queen had discovered, not only in what she had seen, but also in the responses to questions of diplomatic and governmental affairs. The narrator tells us that it took her breath away.

10:10–13 The wealth of Solomon is indicated both in the size of gifts the queen left (the amount of gold is equal to that of Hiram) and in the exotic nature of the gifts he received by way of trade. Almug wood cannot be precisely identified, but its strength served for door supports and fragile musical instruments.

Splendour of the Kingdom (10:14–29)

10:14–17 Ceremony is an important part of any kingdom. Some of the vast amounts of gold was used in the manufacture of ornamental shields, both those of full body length (200 in number), as well as small shields worn on the arm (300 in number). Such shields are well known in Assyrian reliefs.9 These were all stored in the armory known as the forest of Lebanon.

10:18–20 The throne was built with the symbols typical of its time. Six steps suggest that the throne itself was on a platform at a seventh level. Babylonian temple towers were built in seven stages to represent the cosmos. Ascent to the throne of the king meant that order would prevail. Lions are representative of royal authority.

10:21–25 The gold that characterized all the artifacts of Solomon were in such abundance that all other precious metal was rendered valueless. The gold was imported. A “tarshish ship” does not refer to a location but a large, sturdily built sea vessel that could traverse long distances. Solomon’s ships went primarily south and east judging by the goods they brought. Waiting for favorable winds and avoidance of storms was time consuming. The times required for a journey took many years, since sailing had to be done in the right season.

10:26–29 Solomon’s military depended on extensive trade with the area of Kue, located on the Cappadocian seacoast in Asia Minor near the Taurus mountains (1Kgs 10:28). The Hebrew term mutsri is a reference to an area in modern Turkey famous for its horses; it is not mutsrayim (Egypt), as many translations have it. Egypt was never a source for large numbers of horses. From Asia Minor, the traders could market horses with Hittite and Aramean kings (10:29).

Failure of the Kingdom (11:1–43)

Solomon was legendary for his wisdom and for his wealth. These were no doubt well deserved, as remembered in a book like Ecclesiastes. The preacher in Ecclesiastes rightly observes that life and legacy are too often measured by the wrong standards, a result he calls vanity. The legacy of Solomon was complete moral failure and a divided kingdom. While he achieved goals of wealth and fame, he failed to live worthy of the covenant and its people.

Apostacy of Solomon (11:1–13)

11:1–6 This chapter provides the prophetic assessment of the reign of Solomon. The evaluation begins with what will become the refrain of all the kings of Israel: they did what was wrong in the Lord’s sight (11:6). Frequently, they are also measured against the devotion of David. While David may have had many sins, there was never a question about his desire to follow God and live according to the covenant, as may be seen in confessions as Psalms 32 and 51. Such psalms are not assigned to Solomon or any other king.

11:7–10 The fundamental failure of Israelite kings was syncretism; they did not abandon the covenant but fatally compromised its absolute demand: you shall have no other gods before me. The holy God of Israel excluded the possibility of worshiping any other god. As Solomon had expressed in his prayer, the heavens could not contain the throne of his God; there could be no other such ruler. This was Solomon’s fatal failure in relation to numerous other nations. Several are singled out for mention. Astarte (1Kgs 11:5) was a Canaanite goddess of fertility and war, equivalent to Ishtar of Mesopotamia. Solomon’s close relationship with Phoenicia made worship of Astarte a particularly strong temptation. Milcom was a national god of the Ammonites (11:5), a nation that previously had close relations with David. This god was associated with child sacrifice (2Kgs 23:10). Chemosh was the national god of the Moabites, also worshipped in Syria.

11:11–13 Often the word of God comes through a prophet, but no spokesman is mentioned here. The prophetic author of Kings (the narrator of the story) declares the judgment of history. The details of prophetic words will follow. This statement is critical to understanding Kings (see the key verse in the introduction). Kings makes two assertions as the message of its story: (1) Solomon is the first example of apostate kings that brought about the exile; (2) the promise to David would not fail. This is symbolized as the light of a lamp divinely preserved.

Disintegration of the Kingdom (11:14–25)

11:14 Kings revolting against Solomon are referred to as a satan (1Kgs 11:14, 23, 25), the Hebrew term that in New Testament times came to be a name for the Devil. As a common noun, it simply refers to an adversary; only later does it come to mean the adversary against God. This word is chosen deliberately for the vivid way in which it depicts a certain animosity. Solomon earned a lot of antagonism related to taxation as seen in the following stories, from the vassal states as well as the tribes within Israel. The first state mentioned is Edom, where some background is also provided.

11:15–22 David had conquered Edom during the first half of his reign (cf. 2Sam 8:13; heading of Ps 60). The crown prince Hadad was taken by his caretakers to Egypt where Amenemope, the reigning Pharaoh, made him part of the royal household and gave him an estate. At David’s death, Hadad returned to Egypt with the intent of reasserting Edomite independence.

11:23–25 Solomon also lost control of the whole territory of Syria with Damascus coming to be independent. David had defeated the territory north of Damascus on the Orontos River known as Aram Zoba (2Sam 8:3–8). Rezon, a rebel against Hadadezer, gained control over the garrison David had set up in Damascus (2Sam 10:6) and became ruler over a territory called Aram-Damascus, the most powerful Syrian state following Solomon. David’s empire was reduced substantially to the twelve tribes of Israel.

Prophetic Judgment (11:26–40)

11:26–28 The occasion of the prophetic speech announcing the division of the kingdom was the rebellion of Jeroboam. Jeroboam was one of Solomon’s most effective administrators, responsible for all the conscripted service from the house of Joseph. The conscripted labor was based territorially, and Jeroboam was responsible for the territory of Ephraim, which was his home tribe. The cause and occasion of his revolt against Solomon is not stated. It seems to have been in the course of repairs being made to the walls of Jerusalem and their supporting foundations along the hills. The implication for the later story is that the taxation demands were so high that the enterprise became entirely oppressive.

11:29–40 Jeroboam was forced to flee to Egypt. Before finding refuge in Egypt, he was met by Ahijah, a prophet from Shiloh, the city where the tabernacle once resided (1Sam 1:3; 3:3). Jeroboam was wearing a new cloak, which was seized by Ahijah and torn into twelve pieces. This symbolic action of the prophet was to signify that the kingdom would be torn from the house of David. The “lamp of David” (1Kgs 11:36), however, would be preserved; Jeroboam would receive only ten parts of the garment, leaving Judah to Solomon’s descendants. Simeon was always a territory within Judah, and the small tribe of Benjamin north of Jerusalem was later absorbed by the tribe of Judah. The house of Joseph remained as three tribes: Ephraim; Manasseh to the west and to the east of the Sea of Galilee.

Concluding Summary (11:41–43)

This is the first summary that becomes characteristic of every king. The reference to other works appears to be the prophetic records that served as sources for the narrative of kings. These are not official state annals, as their content is not the kind of information that pertains to state records. The length of forty years is that of a generation rather than an actual calculation of specific years, as they are for other kings.

A Kingdom Divided (12:1–14:31)

David united Judah and Israel by forming a new capital in Jerusalem, a city on the border of Judah and Benjamin. There had always been resistance in the north towards the Davidic kingdom established in Jerusalem. The conscripted labor of Solomon exacerbated these elements of hostility to Jerusalem. Failure to address this burden led to revolt. Political attitudes to Judah also changed in Egypt. Solomon had an alliance with Pharaoh Siamun of the twenty-first dynasty, but during his reign a new dynasty arose under Pharaoh Shoshenq I (Shishak in 1Kgs 14:25), whose ambition was to control the area of Palestine. The division of the kingdom afforded him an opportunity to invade Palestine, an event preserved in a victory stele at Karnak (modern Luxor) in Egypt and the three-meter (ten-foot) monument Shoshenq erected at Megiddo to commemorate his victory (see endnote iv) LINK.

From a prophetic point of view, it was neither politics within Israel nor political changes internationally that resulted in the division of Solomon’s kingdom. The problem was the apostacy of Solomon; the bitter resentment of his opponents, referred to as a satan, was a judgment against turning from God. A long prophetic account in this section describes explicitly the divine judgment brought against the kingdom.

Revolt against Rehoboam (12:1–24)

12:1–5 The fundamental problem of Davidic succession does not seem to have been resolved. While Solomon was the divine choice of king, the accession of Solomon did not include the affirmation of the northern tribes who became increasingly resentful of conscripted labor. Their resentment was seen in the flight of Jeroboam to Egypt, who was an enemy (satan) to Solomon. Schechem was a central and important northern city, the place of covenant renewal (Josh 24), so a logical location to seek the affirmation of the northern tribes. The tribes gathered with the intention of establishing a new agreement, signalled by the invitation to Jeroboam to return to Israel. Jeroboam understood well the grievances of conscripted labor from his work in Jerusalem.

12:6–11 Rehoboam took time to consider what measures he should take in consultation with community leaders. These were influential community leaders but not people who held office. They were divided by generation, the older remembering the days of the kingdom before Solomon’s vast building and fortification, the younger of the generation of Rehoboam. He was forty-one years old at the time he became king of Judah (1Kgs 14:21), but his generation had only known the luxuries of taxation. Their response was disparaging, expressed in the form of a proverb meant to emasculate their opponents. “My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist” (12:11) is a way of expressing power and authority. It assumed the northern tribes could be forced to submit.

12:12–19 The decision to exercise force assured a revolt of the northern tribes against the house of David. However, the prophetic author points out that this was itself a divinely determined outcome (12:15). God had already passed judgment on Solomon and his kingdom; this was merely the means by which that judgment came. Adoram, the man in charge of conscripted labor, was promptly stoned and Rehoboam forced to flee to Jerusalem.

12:20–24 The coronation of Jeroboam is simply stated with a resumption of the notice that he had returned from Egypt. Immediate and outright civil war to coerce the tribes of Israel was averted by the word of a prophet. Nothing further is known of this prophet, nor is there any other report of the narrowly averted war. The Chronicler reports it in the same words (2Chr 11:2–4), which he has adopted from Kings.

Jeroboam Rules Israel (12:25–32)

12:25–30 Jeroboam’s first action was to establish an administrative centre for the northern kingdom at Shechem. He also established a centre of rule on the east side of Jordan in the valley of the Jabbok, at a place called Penuel. No explanation is given, but it may be that the Transjordan tribes required their own centre. Jeroboam’s second innovation was the establishment of worship centres at the northern end of the country in Dan and the southern part of the country in Bethel. The mention of the people going in procession to the altar at Dan (1Kgs 12:30) may indicate that Jeroboam himself only dedicated the altar at Bethel. These were meant to be places where the God of Israel was worshipped (who had brought them up from Egypt, 12:28), but it was contrary to the demands of the Law of Moses. There was to be only one place of worship, and there were to be no images. The calf was the pedestal of the god Baal of the Phoenicians; it was Jeroboam’s substitute for the cherubim of the temple. Israel would continuously have close ties with Tyre and Sidon. This became the characteristic sin of the northern kingdom confronted by all the prophets.

12:31–32 Jeroboam ordained priests that were not Levitical and came from all backgrounds of their society. It may have signalled a further separation from the kingdom of David since Levitical cities were centres of preserving the faith and culture as given in covenant instruction.

Jeroboam also shifted the time of the main pilgrimage festival to the eighth month. This may have had to do with the later seasons of the northern part of the country. The pilgrimage festivals were both agricultural and spiritual, a giving of thanks for the harvest as well as a celebration of redemption from Egypt.

Prophetic Judgment against House of Jeroboam (12:33–13:34)

12:33–13:6 When Jeroboam mounted the altar at Bethel for dedication, he was confronted by a prophet from Judah. The prophet addressed the altar, making a specific pronouncement, unusual in biblical prophecy, speaking of Josiah by name as a future king that will destroy all such foreign altars. When Jeroboam stretched out his arm to order the man to be seized, it was paralyzed. As a portent of the future, the altar was torn down and the ashes poured on the ground. Jeroboam pleaded that his paralyzed arm be restored; he was made whole through the prophet’s prayer.

13:7–10 The prophet of Bethel was under strict orders from God. He had a single mission: to pronounce judgment on the altar at Bethel and then return by another route. He must not accept any hospitality, a point that is made several times.

13:11–19 Disobedience to the divine word was not limited to wayward kings. The very prophet who had so powerfully delivered the judgment of God against foreign altars was himself tempted by another prophet from Bethel. When his judgment speech of the prophet from Judah was reported, the prophet from Bethel followed him and said God had told him to bring the man from Judah back as a guest at his house. Nothing is said of the motives of the prophet from Bethel, but his false words were intended as a test of the faithfulness of the prophet from Judah. The prophet from Judah should not have been deceived. God’s command to him is repeated; as a prophet he had no excuse not to beware of false prophecies. The person that delivered judgment against Jeroboam disobeyed the clear word of God in the same way that Jeroboam had done in building the altar at Bethel.

13:20–24 While still at the table, the prophet from Bethel pronounced the judgment that would fall on the man from Judah. He would be killed by a lion in his journey, and his own body would never return home. The lion did not kill for hunger; the body of the prophet was cast to the side, and the lion and donkey stood as sentries to the dead prophet.

13:25–32 The prophet from Bethel recovered the body of the man of God from Judah, buried him, and requested that he himself be buried alongside this brave man of God. The lesson is that both kings and prophets can be disobedient to the Word of God, and both will equally suffer judgment. There is no escape from punishment for willful, unrepentant disobedience.

13:33–34 The lesson from the death of the prophet from Judah was directed precisely at Jeroboam. This had no effect whatever on his policies concerning the establishment of places of worship and ordaining priests throughout Israel. His political ambitions were more important to him than the fear of the Lord.

End of the Reign of Jeroboam (14:1–20)

14:1–4 The prophet Ahijah had promised Jeroboam a dynasty on condition that he keep the terms of the covenant (11:38). Abijah, the son of Jeroboam and heir to the throne, was sick to the point of death. Jeroboam’s last recourse was to seek God’s word through Ahijah. His wife sought the prophet in disguise, in the hope that the prophet might not know this was the king’s son and might give him a more favorable response.

14:5–11 Disguises do not deter true prophets from knowing the truth. Condemnation of Jeroboam was given in terms of his call (11:33–35). The judgment that came on Solomon would also come upon Jeroboam; that is, he would lose the kingdom. The idiom of “cutting off” every male whether bond or free (14:10) is a way of referring to the entire royal house.10 The prophet called the house of Jeroboam under judgment, not every male in Israel. The house of Jeroboam would not even have the dignity of a proper burial, the ultimate indignity.

14:12–16 Jeroboam’s wife had come to plead with the prophet for the life of her son. Her only consolation was that in this child there was some good, and of the house of Jeroboam this was the only child that would receive a proper burial. The kingdom of Israel would be like a reed shaken in the water (14:15), a metaphor referring to the many revolts to take over the rule of Israel. The Asherah groves Jeroboam established in Israel were cult places like the one belonging to Gideon’s father, which had to be cut down (Judg 6:25–26). Such trees were typical of what had been called “high places,” a platform of stones with an altar. They were in conformity to the culture of Canaan and were an abomination to God.

14:17–18 Jeroboam’s wife returned to Tirzah, the city that was the home of the kings of northern Israel before Samaria was built. Tirzah was located on a major road in a river valley readily accessible to the east side of the Jordan. Jeroboam’s son died immediately upon the arrival of his mother, according to the word of the prophet.

14:19–20 The summary of the reign of Jeroboam reports that he reigned twenty-two years. During that time, he was frequently engaged in battle. Much of this warfare was with Rehoboam (1Kgs 14:30), as the boundary between Israel and Judah was continuously disputed. Reference will regularly be made to the royal records. The prophets had access to these records and incorporated some of the information found there into their own prophetic records of each king. For the chronology that synchronizes the years of Israelite kings with those of surrounding nations, see the chronological chart.

Reign of Rehoboam (14:21–31)

14:21–24 The introductory regnal resume of Rehoboam follows a regular pattern of kings. He was the successor of Solomon, but it is further noted that he was also the son of an Ammonite woman, one of Solomon’s many wives. His distinction is that he led Israel in the manner of Canaanite worship just as Jeroboam, irrespective of the temple that had taken such a heavy toll in conscripted labor. The “high places” are more elaborately described; they were an altar on a stone platform under a grove of trees and often on a hill. Sacred memorial stones could also be found around them. It is not known what role “consecrated persons” may have had in relation to these shrines, but there is no evidence that sexual acts were a part of Canaanite or Israelite worship.

14:25–28 The dynasty of Pharaohs that succeeded those of Solomon’s time were not friendly to Israel. Shishak raided Judah and Israel in Rehoboam’s first year, which, according to Egyptian chronology, can be dated to 925 BC.11 The prophetic authors limited their interest in this great campaign to the plunder of the ceremonial golden shields of Solomon, which significantly diminished the status of the kingdom. Rehoboam had to replace these shields with ones of much less valuable bronze. This was an evidence of divine judgment against Rehoboam, not the outcome of a political campaign.

14:29–31 The concluding summary of Rehoboam’s reign characterizes it as one of warfare with Jeroboam. The reign of Rehoboam was shorter than that of Jeroboam.

Wars of Israel and Judah (15:1–24)

The city of Jerusalem was on the boundary of Judah and Benjamin. The small tribe of Benjamin was absorbed into the tribe of Judah with the division of the kingdom. The Judaean kings needed to protect their capital city; to do so they fortified the cities to the north such as Ramah and Mizpah. The boundary wars continued until there came to be a disastrous alliance between Judah and Israel that threatened all worship of God at the temple.

Abijah (15:1–8)

In Kings, Abijah son of Rehoboam is called Abijam, but in Chronicles he is Abijah. Abijam would be a Canaanite form of the name meaning “my father is Yam” (god of the sea). His mother, Maacah, is said to be a daughter of Abishalom. This is likely not Absalom the brother of Solomon, as Rehoboam would not have married his father’s niece. Ahijah followed in the ways of his father, but God preserved the lamp of David in Jerusalem (15:3–4). In Chronicles, this theme is developed in a speech Abijah gives to Jeroboam and all Israel to call them back to the promise to David and worship at the temple (2Chr 13:4–12). God granted Abijah a victory over Jeroboam, so the boundary cities of Bethel, Ephrain, and Jeshanah came under the control of Judah. The cult worship of Bethel could not have been under Judah’s control very long.

Asa (15:9–24)

15:9–16 Asa is the first of only a few kings that have a positive assessment in being as loyal as David. This is seen in his removal of “consecrated persons” that were serving at the various shrines and the queen mother who had set up a horrid image for the cult place referred to as Asherah. Official duties of the queen mother are not known. Maacah may have had a foreign husband and brought some image from her country of origin.

15:17–22 Baasha, king of Israel during Asa’s rule, was attempting to station a garrison at Ramah, a city on the high road about eight kilometers, or five miles, north of Jerusalem, to prevent Israelites from crossing into Judah. Asa had determined he would keep this border city of Ephraim under his control; to that end he enlisted the help of the Aramean king. The Arameans were the perpetual enemies of Israel until the Assyrians began to conquer the West. Asa was able to bribe Ben-Hadad, a common Aramean name, to break his truce with Baasha and attack Israel. Ben-Hadad invaded Israel from the sources of the Jordan to Kinnereth (later Genesaret) in Naphtali. Asa then conscripted the men of Judah to fortify the border cities of Mizpah, north of Ramah, and Geba, to the east of Ramah in the valley leading to Jericho.

15:23–24 The closing summary of Asa’s reign makes mention of him dying from a disease in his feet. The Chronicler develops this point at some length (2Chr 16:7–12) as an evidence of divine punishment.

Anarchy in the Rule of Israel (15:25–16:34)

As the prophet Ahijah had stated to the wife of Jeroboam (1Kgs 14:10–12), the house of Jeroboam would shortly come to an end. This happened with the conspiracy of Baasha (15:27–28), but that was only the beginning of turmoil in the kingdom of Israel. The rule of ten competing tribes and discontent in the military created a volatile situation. Stability was reached with the ascension of Omri (16:23), a very competent king respected by the Assyrian rulers.

Reign of Nadab (15:25–32)

Nadab was the only son of Jeroboam to rule in Israel, and his reign only lasted between a year and two years. He was assassinated by Baasha while occupied with a siege at Gibbethon, a Levitical city belonging to the tribe of Dan (Josh 19:44; 21:23). It was in Philistine territory just west of Gezer. It was likely a military post to protect the border. Baasha terminated the entire royal house of Jeroboam, just as the prophet Ahijah had said to the wife who came in disguise. Nadab was not buried in the royal cemetery.

Rule of Baasha (16:1–7)

The assessment of Baasha is given in connection with his long war with Asa and is found together with that of Nadab (1Kgs 15:33–34). His guilt was in following in the sins of Jeroboam, even though he was a usurper who took over the throne. The end of the house of Baasha is described in the same terms as that of Jeroboam (16:3–4). It came as a prophetic speech from Jehu son of Hanani.

Rule of Elah (16:8–14)

The son of Baasha in calendar time reigned just over a year, as the year he came to power and the year he was assassinated are each counted as a year. He was killed by Zimri, a general over the chariots, who reigned only seven days. The short reign of Zimri was sufficient to eliminate every successor there might be to the house of Baasha, in accordance with the prophetic word of Jehu.

Rule of Zimri (16:15–22)

Omri was the field commander in a siege of Gibbethon (15:27). Zimri had used this as the occasion to stage his coup. When news reached Omri, he promptly abandoned the siege and attacked the capital city of Tirzah. In less than a week, it was obvious that the forces of Zimri were no match for those of Omri, so Zimri burned himself in the palace. The army however was divided, with one faction choosing Tibni as king. The inference is that these two rivals were at war, with Omri prevailing and Tibni dying in battle.

Omri (16:23–28)

Omri became the undisputed king with the death of Tibni. His reign of twelve years includes five years when his rule was shared with Tibni (a co-regency); he became king in the thirty-first year of Asa, and Ahab comes to reign in the thirty-eighth year of Asa, just seven calendar years.

Though his reign is given the same cryptic evaluation as being evil because of idolatry, Omri was an internationally famous king. Sargon II of Assyria refers to “Omri-land” almost 200 years later. Omri established a new state capital in Samaria, a means of uniting the warring factions of Israel. This strategic location was at high elevation in the center of Israel. It was known as Shamir (Judg 10:1–2), meaning “watch” or “watchman.” Its summit rises about 450 meters, or 1,500 feet, above the coastal lands along a main coastal road connecting Egypt with the Jezreel valley and routes north to Phoenicia and Damascus. It became a center for shipping commodities like oil and wine in Israel. Omri established the first dynasty in Israel.

Ahab (16:29–34)

The Assyrians signalled their coming domination west of the Euphrates in the great battle of Qarqar. In this city, they encountered a great coalition of Syrian and Canaanite forces resolved to keep them away. This campaign is described on a monument about two meters high recounting the reign of Shalmaneser III. The monument names Ahab king of Israel among the allies defending Syria, supplying 2,000 chariots and 10,000 troops.12 This battle took place in the year 853 BC, which would have been the last year of Ahab’s reign.

Ahab aggravated the apostacy of Jeroboam son of Nebat by allying with the Phoenicians in marrying Jezebel, daughter of the king of Sidon. He further built a temple to Baal in Samaria and founded an Asherah cult shrine, actively promoting the religion of Baal. This may be similar to the actions of Solomon, who built worship places in Jerusalem for his foreign wives.

Hiel of Bethel restored and fortified Jericho during Ahab’s time, further securing the southern border of Israel. Joshua had placed a curse on the city (Josh 6:26), declaring that anyone who rebuilt it would suffer the loss of his children. The first and the last are likely a way of referring to the whole; that is, the entire succession died by the time of its completion at the hanging of the doors.

Days of Elijah (17:1–19:21)

The God of the Bible can have no rival: “there is none beside me” (Deut 4:35, 39). God alone has absolute holiness; he is apart from all creation, and all things consist in him. He is the sole giver of life and all that supports life. The prophets understood this exclusive claim, but not most of humanity. Ahab denied God in his practice of including Phoenician gods as contributing to his wealth and well-being. The stories of Elijah are to clarify the divine requirement of faith. Trust in any other power is a denial of trust in the God of the covenant.

The Test of Elijah (17:1)

The Phoenician god propagated by Jezebel as the source of material wealth and well-being was hailed as the rider of the clouds. His pedestal was a calf because this god was believed to provide the rains that made the land fertile and enabled herds to prosper and people to thrive. Elijah confronts Ahab on this very claim. Nothing contributes to life and care of creation apart from the creator. This is what it means to call God holy. God may ordain representatives, such as humans created to bear his image, but humans possess only a derivative holiness. Claiming allegiance to any other power of life is a denial of their status; the covenant is severed. The test of holiness for Ahab was tangible: only God determined the rain.

Moses had warned of this problem of compromise in Deuteronomy 8. God had tested them in the wilderness to show that he alone was the giver of life. Now they were coming into a rich land that would provide them with abundance of riches. There they would forget that mortals do not live by bread alone. God sent drought so they would remember the wilderness lesson: God alone provides the sustenance of life. If humans depend on God for food, then they don’t live by bread alone. Life depends on trust in God.

Elijah at the Wadi Cherith (17:2–7)

God’s provision for life is seen in the care of his prophet. Elijah was directed to a wadi in his home territory in Gilead. A wadi is a brook that runs only when it rains. The provision of the brook and the ravens could only be temporary. It demonstrated both Elijah’s dependence on God and the provision of God.

Elijah with the Widow of Zarephath (17:8–16)

When the wadi dried up, God directed Elijah to a village between Sidon and Tyre, the very centre of the territory of the father of Queen Jezebel. This would not be the place one would expect to find faith in the God of Israel. The woman of Zarephath showed genuine faith and was rewarded for it. She was willing to share the last of her sustenance based on the word of the prophet, an acknowledgement that grain and oil came from God and not from Baal. From a prophetic point of view, the continuous supply of flour and oil was no more miraculous than wheat growing in the field and olives on the tree. Both were the same miracle of life, just a different process.

Widow’s Son Raised to Life (17:17–24)

Dependence on God for life is demonstrated directly by the death of the widow’s son. The widow’s concern was that Elijah perceives hidden sin for which she was being punished. But the death of the child was not a punishment. Elijah turned it into an opportunity to better understand and practice faith. There can be the illusion that humans themselves support life through the work that they do. God does ordain that humans support life through their work, but this does not make them less dependent on God. The famine showed that Moses was right: humans do not live by bread alone (Deut 8:3). The widow had demonstrated her faith in God, but such faith did not prevent the tragic loss of her son. He had provided life in the giving of bread, but this had not prevented the loss of her son. The raising of the son demonstrates two things: (1) God granting bread is not in itself sufficient to sustain life; (2) the prophet Elijah does represent God and his power to grant life.

Elijah Confronts Ahab (18:1–19)

18:1–6 In the third year of the drought, God revealed to Elijah that there would be rain. The effect of an entire season without rain now extending into a third year had become life threatening. The situation was so desperate that Ahab was in danger of losing the steeds of his cavalry and work animals because there was no water. Having to destroy animals for lack of feed and water is a compounded calamity. Ahab had commissioned his palace administrator Obadiah to help him find water. Obadiah was a God-fearing man who used his position with the king to preserve one hundred of Yahweh’s prophets from the sword of Jezebel. He did not need to further jeopardize his situation with the king.

18:7–15 Obadiah had gone his own direction in the search for water when he suddenly met Elijah. The encounter shows how Elijah had dominated the affairs of Samaria. The king had spared no effort in hunting down the prophet, including searching in the neighboring countries of Israel. He had put them under oath to assure they were not hiding the prophet. The request of Elijah shows the precarious situation of Obadiah. If he assured the king that Elijah would appear this day, his loyalty to the king would be tested. Further, Elijah was known to disappear. Elijah’s response was that Obadiah would need to take him at his word and that the meeting with Ahab would take place. Obadiah had no choice in the engagement. He must tell the king.

18:16–19 This short critical episode betrays the conflicted position of Ahab. His rhetorical question is a condemnation of himself, as the response of Elijah makes clear. If Elijah had no power over rain, he was not troubling Israel. Ahab laid the blame on him, an admission that Baal was powerless. This duplicity demanded a further test of the Baal prophets. This Ahab could not deny.

Elijah Confronts the Baal Prophets (18:20–46)

18:20–24 Elijah laid out his test before the people. Their situation was all too familiar. The materialism of the Baal cult and the pressure of culture had led them to seek wealth from him. This same dilemma plagues Christians of all places and times. Although humans have a need for very few things, we desire still more things. God, however, may not prioritize these additional things we desire since they are not always good. This tension between human priorities and divine priorities leads to our constant inclination to “limp on two crutches.” Human dependence is a given, but there is only one source of life. Elijah intended to force a decision that required the people to trust the sole source of all life or remain dependent on their own solutions.

18:25–29 The Baal prophets carried out the sacrifice according to their rituals, which involved some sort of ritual dance about the altar as well as blood shedding, often associated with rites of death. Elijah mocked the impotency of the Baal god. These rituals were carried on until late in the day to no avail.

18:30–38 Elijah began by repairing an altar of Yahweh with twelve stones that represented the tribes of Israel. He further had a trench dug around the altar that would hold about fifteen liters, or four gallons (based on excavated jars), which could be filled by twelve jars of water. This would later contain the fire. The wood and offering were placed on the altar and soaked with water. God typically appeared in fire, as at mount Sinai. Here the power of the divine presence is demonstrated by fire completely consuming the burnt offering at the prayer of Elijah in the name of the God of the fathers.

18:39–40 The response of the people was to acknowledge the power of the God of Israel and renew their dedication to him alone. The execution of the prophets of Baal had its parallel in the execution of the perpetrators of the worship of the golden calf at Sinai (Exod 32:27–29). Elijah himself was responsible for their punishment with the help of the people.

18:41–46 The account came to completion with rain according to the word of Elijah, as the prophet had originally said to the king. The king was told to celebrate, for the sound of the rushing rain could be heard. Elijah proceeded to pray at the top of mount Carmel. His servant must check seven times, but when the cloud appeared, Ahab must race in his chariot back to his capital at Jezreel. Elijah, empowered by God, ran before him as an escort.

Elijah Flees to Mount Sinai (19:1–12)

19:1–3 Jezebel was quite naturally outraged at the death of the prophets of Baal and vowed that she would terminate the life of Elijah immediately. Fear was a perfectly natural human response before such a threat; there is no suggestion in the narrative that this betrayed a failure of faith. The feat at Mount Carmel was not a license on the part of Elijah to presume that he could defiantly ignore Jezebel’s threats. He must meet with God alone for the next stage of his mission, and not even his attendant can accompany him.

19:4–8 Elijah had no provisions for a long journey through the desert. This provision was made by a messenger identified as being sent by God (1Kgs 19:7). Elijah’s journey was forty days and nights, which corresponds to the time of Moses on Sinai (Exod 24:18). Elijah fasted for the forty days, drawing strength on the food provided by the messenger. Moses also fasted forty days on the mountain after the Baal episode (Exod 34:28). The divine mission of Moses and Elijah was remembered by Malachi when God brings creation to a conclusion (Mal 4:4–6) and again in Jesus fulfilling his mission at the mount of Transfiguration (Matt 17:1–8). The narrative will make clear, however, that Elijah is not a second Moses.

19:9–12 At Mount Sinai, Elijah found refuge in a cave. God addressed him with a rhetorical question, which gave Elijah the opportunity to explain that all Israel had abandoned the covenant and the worship of God. Elijah did not blame Ahab or Jezebel for the apostacy; rather, it was Israel that was seeking his life. This was true despite their confessions at Mount Carmel.

God provided a special place for Elijah to wait for the manifestation of the presence of God, much as he did for Moses (Exod 33:22), but this is where the parallels end. At Sinai, the majesty of God was manifest in the cosmic phenomena of loud thunder, lightning, a thick dark cloud, and a voice like a trumpet (Exod 19:16–20). For Elijah, God did not appear in the earthquake or fire; when his voice was heard, it was in a barely audible whisper.

God Commissions Successors to Elijah (19:13–21)

19:13–18 At the voice of God, Elijah went to the door of the cave. He covered his face with his cloak, as Moses earlier was shielded from the divine presence (Exod 33:32). The divine presence was manifest in the silence. Elijah repeated his despair at carrying out his role as a prophet (cf. 1Kgs 19:10, 14). The Lord then appointed successors to complete the task. Hazael would become king of the Arameans and Jehu king over Israel. Elijah’s own role would be taken up by Elisha. They would carry out the purification of Israel. Elijah himself did not anoint any of the successors. He announced succession only to Elisha. His prophetic work was now affirmed and complete.

Israelites that had not shown reverence to Baal were 7,000. This was a symbolic number based on seven. It only indicates that there would be a faithful remnant and that not all had apostatized.

19:19–21 Elijah found Elisha, a farmer of some means in command of a significant acreage. Elisha understood the symbolism of Elijah throwing his mantel over him and immediately made plans for a change of vocation. He was not deterred by Elijah’s words to return. The feast that he made was the signal that he would now become an itinerant prophet as the attendant of Elijah.

Duplicity of Ahab (20:1–43)

The Arameans occupied the east side of the Jordan in the ninth century and from there made intrusions into Israelite territory, extending right to the capital of Samaria. God provided victory, but this was rejected by Ahab. The king would rather forge his own alliance with the Arameans than accept the covenant of Israel with God.

Aramean Attack on Samaria (20:1–21)

20:1–6 Ben-hadad king of Arameans is mentioned during the reign of Asa and Baasha (1Kgs 15:18), but this may be a dynastic name and not the same king (see the chronological chart). The Arameans are presented as an ethnic identity rather than a state. An alliance of thirty-two kings is typical for inscriptions at the time. These were Aramean chieftains in the region of Damascus who ruled under the protection of Ben-hadad. Ahab was willing to accede to the demand of hegemony over Samaria in exchange for the withdrawal of the armies (20:4), but the Aramean king demanded possession of valuables and taxation (20:5). If Ahab did not yield, the king would take them by force.

20:7–12 The demands of the Aramean king drove Ahab to consult with the elders. These were the clan leaders of the various towns recognized by the royal administration for the maintenance of governance and order. The “people” are ambiguous (20:8); this term often refers to those in the military, but in this instance, it more likely refers to those represented by the elders. They refused to be subjected to the demands of Ben-hadad. The Aramean king in response vowed to reduce Samaria to a few handfuls of dust, while Ahab responded by saying one putting on the armour should not boast like one who has finished the battle. Sukkot is the location on the mouth of the Jabbok river that was a customary place for war preparations.

20:13–14 The essence of the prophetic message is that this battle would not be won by military might but by divine intervention. “You will know that I am Yahweh” is the refrain of the exodus narrative in the defeat of the Egyptians (Exod 7:3–5). The means God uses in this instance is the attendants of the district officers, presumably a small band of untrained commanders as leaders.

20:15–21 The drunkenness of Ben-hadad exacerbated his arrogance and contributed to his swift demise. At the approach of the Israelite army, he ordered an attack, but his army was routed. Ben-hadad escaped on the speed of his chariot.

Aramean Battle at Aphek (20:22–34)

20:22–25 The prophet who had assured Ahab of victory warned him not to be complacent. He could be sure that at the next opportunity the Arameans would attack. The advisers of the Aramean king in turn told him to take firmer control of his empire by appointing governors and to prepare for battle on level ground where their chariots would be an advantage.

20:26–28 The new year began in spring, which was typically a time of attack, as favorable weather and the availability of the first crops enabled armies to be much more effective. The Israelites mustered their armies opposite the Arameans at Aphek, a location in the Transjordan. The Israelite armies appeared exposed and vulnerable like two unprotected flocks of goats. The prophet provided assurance of victory with the same words of the exodus he had used earlier. The presumption of Aramean reasoning would be met by the One who has power over hills and valleys because he created them.

20:29–34 The Aramean armies were routed through divine power enabling the Israelite armies. Those that escaped fled into the city of Aphek, in the eastern shore of Galilee north of the Yarmuk river. There the servants of Ben-hadad contrived to spare his life by appealing to the weakness of the Israelite king. They pretended to be in the situation of captives to the Israelites in their apparel and their address to Ahab. His response to Ben-hadad was “he is my covenant partner (brother).” Ben-hadad had broken the treaty, but Ahab seemed prepared to overlook that violation. The messengers took his words as an omen (yenachashu) that they could achieve clemency. Ahab invited the Aramean king into his chariot, effectively restoring the royal status of the captive king. Ben-hadad agreed to the restoration of territory and provision of an area in Damascus to detain opponents. Ahab senselessly put no obligation on the Aramean and created a situation where the aggressor was restored to his former status. God had delivered his people from subservience, but Ahab reversed the victory.

Prophetic Judgment of Ahab (20:35–43)

The prophetic rebuke came to the king through an enacted drama depicting the escape of a captive soldier. A certain prophetic band was designated by a distinguishing sign on their foreheads. One of these prophets deceptively covered this sign pretending it was a wound and waited for the return of the king. He told the king that he had been entrusted to guard a captive of war under threat of his own life should the captive escape. The king was to make a judgment since the captive got away. The king replied that this man had convicted himself. The key word in the application of the story to the king is herem (1Kgs 20:44), paraphrased as one “destined to die.” This is a technical theological word used throughout the Law of Moses to indicate irreversible dedication to God. It could be applied to land dedicated perpetually to the temple (Lev 27:21). When God is the victor in battle, as was clearly the case given how Israel was outnumbered, all the booty had to be irreversibly given to God. In this case, it meant the killing of the enemy soldiers, in particular the Aramean king. The release of the king was not the prerogative of Ahab; God had a claim on this man’s life. His dismissal to become a treaty partner with Ahab would be judged by Ahab paying with his own life. Ahab had just judged himself.

Naboth’s Vineyard (21:1–29)

The stories of Elijah all have a focus on greed and power as the oppression of the people and the violations of the duties of the king. The story of the judgment on mount Carmel was directed at the materialism of worshiping the god of rain as a way of enhancing wealth like that of the Phoenicians. The power was directed against Yahweh’s prophets. The story of Naboth is the royal flouting of the covenant rights of an Israelite that are granted by God. It is another low in the disregard for the teaching of Moses.

Judicial Murder for Property (21:1–16)

The conflict was over the strategic location of a vineyard in the royal city of Jezreel, which was situated in the rich valley that extends east from Megiddo. Ahab set his mind on acquiring the family inheritance of a distinguished citizen named Naboth. The protection of the nachalah was a sacred duty in Mosaic Law; it was a safeguard against any Israelite family losing the inheritance acquired by lot from God. Every Jubilee year all debt was forgiven to restore this inheritance to the family. Naboth very rightly refused to separate from this property at any price, as it would become a sin on his part.

Ahab realized he could not flout this law, and it put him in a sultry mood. His wife, Jezebel, had no respect for any regulation in Israel. She shrewdly used Israelite law to have Naboth put to death, a murder by the use of law. To do this, she forged letters with a royal seal, which assured their authenticity. These letters went to all the property owners of the city, the people of influence, calling for a national day of penitence because of a sin that had been committed. She shrewdly allied two evil witnesses because at least two witnesses were required in a legal case. At the fast, these witnesses falsely accused Naboth of two crimes, one against God and one against the king. The first carried the penalty of death, which was the goal of the whole exercise.

It seems that if a family owner died through the punishment of cursing God, he then also forfeited the claim to the property that had been given to him by God. In any case, this enabled Ahab to acquire a property with the approval of the citizens.

Punishment of Death for Legal Murder (21:17–29)

Elijah confronted Ahab to declare that this would be the end of both his life and his dynasty, though one son would succeed him. This judgment came through the usurper Jehu and would be explicitly dealt with in the Book of Kings. In this story, guilt falls on everyone. Ahab was as guilty as Jezebel; irrespective of what he knew of her actions, he was responsible. The citizens were guilty in their complicity with the proceedings. The story illustrates the reason why the whole nation of Israel will come to an end.

Punishment of Israel (22:1–54)

This section narrates the death of Ahab in the war at Ramoth Gilead, a divine punishment for his murder of Naboth and expropriation of his family inheritance. In this context, the reader is introduced to Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah. He succeeded Asa not long after Ahab became king in Israel (1Kgs 22:41–51). Ahab solicited help from the king of Judah in his war with Aram. The death of Ahab begins the end of the house of Omri as announced to Elijah (19:15–17). Ahaziah son of Ahab died within two years (22:52). Within ten years (see the chronological chart), Jehu killed the entire house of Ahab (2Kgs 10:10–11). The house of Ahab was punished for his covenant disobedience, but this did not end idolatrous worship, which would in the end destroy Israel.

Dispute of the Prophets (22:1–28)

22:1–4 The war at Ramoth Gilead is the sequel to the earlier war in which Ben-hadad was subdued and surrendered all the territory he had taken over (1Kgs 20:34). Ahab had released the prisoner under the conditions of the new agreement, but it obviously was never honored. As the prophets charged, the divine victory was eradicated. After a short period without armed conflict, Ahab was determined to fight for what he had given up and persuaded the Judean king Jehoshaphat to ally with him.

22:5–18 True and false prophecy was constantly an issue in Israelite society. As was true in most royal courts, advice to the king was given in accordance with what was perceived to be the wishes of the king. The unanimity of the prophets of Baal could not satisfy Jehoshaphat in making his decision to join Ahab in an alliance. Ahab himself was well aware of the fact that the Baal prophets were advocating for his favor rather than for the truth. When Micaiah ben Imlah affirmed what the prophets of Baal were saying (22:15), Ahab knew immediately that this was not the word of the Lord (22:16). Consequently, Micaiah gave a metaphorical answer declaring that the king would be killed in battle (22:17). King as shepherd and the people as sheep was a common royal metaphor.

22:19–23 A court scene in heaven explains the divine punishment of Ahab, which he brought on himself. God is depicted with his assembled court in which various members carry out their duties like the ancient court of a king (cf. Pss 82; 89:6–8). The “lying spirit” (ruach sheqer) in the mouth of the prophets describes the effect that the message will have on the king (1Kgs 22; 23). The words of the messenger would become a seduction to the prophets and the king because of the perversion of their minds. The Baal prophets were willfully self-deceived, as was Ahab. Paul similarly tells the Thessalonians that the deception of the devil is effective in the lawless one, because God has sent a strong delusion to those who are perishing that they should believe a lie (2Thes 2:8–12). Rejection of the truth creates a culture where speaking the truth is perceived to be a lie and lies are conceived to be truth. This is transparently evident in much of what is called “science” in our time, where theories are maintained that cannot be reconciled to factual evidence because it would be giving up fundamental assumptions.

22:24–28 Micaiah was imprisoned until Ahab returned from battle. If Ahab returned alive, Micaiah would deserve death, for the Lord had not spoken through him (Deut 18:21–33). The question of Micaiah’s fate would not take long to resolve.

Battle at Ramoth Gilead (22:29–38)

22:29–36 The account of the battle is narrated to show that God had judged Ahab worthy of death and that the divine verdict could not be avoided. It may be that Ahab knew this and was acting in desperation. In ancient rules of war, the presence of the king or the general was essential to direct the troops. Once the leader was mortally wounded, the non-professional soldiers were scattered like sheep without a shepherd. Ahab lured reluctant Jehoshaphat into battle then attempted to make him the target of the enemy army. The ruse failed entirely. Ahab was mortally wounded almost as collateral damage by a stray arrow. Though he remained visibly present to his army for the day, he bled to death in the chariot.

22:37–38 Ahab was brought back to the city of Samaria, where the dogs licked up his blood just as they had the blood of Nabal, who was victimized by murder. This was not the same city; Nabal had died in Jezreel. Yet this did not make the prophetic word of Elijah any less true (1Kgs 21:19). Nabal died under a judgment legally construed; Ahab died in battle as a cowardly king unable to escape God’s judgment. Elijah was not making a prediction about a place; he was making a statement about divine justice. The fate of Ahab would be the same as that of his victim. Both died in humiliation under the guise of a noble proceeding.

Summary of Rule of Ahab (22:39–40)

Politically, the reign of Ahab was notable. His building projects in Samaria included furniture and walls decorated with ivory. Over 500 ivory fragments have been excavated in the city. He also fortified cities. Not mentioned is the alliance he had with other Syrian states in a battle against Shalmaneser III at Qarqar near the end of his reign. According to the Assyrian Monolith Inscription, Ahab contributed 2,000 chariots and 10,000 troops in a battle that significantly delayed taxation in western territories.

Rule of Jehoshaphat (22:41–51)

22:41–47 This short summary contextualizes the reign of Jehoshaphat with that of the northern kingdom. He became king shortly before the death of his father, who apparently was afflicted with illness at the end of his life (2Chr 16:12). He also reconciled hostilities with Israel that had occupied the reign of his father (1Kgs 15:16), as is evident in the previous story. This alliance came to have the disastrous effect of nearly ending the Davidic dynasty, as events unfold. The actions of the reign of Jehoshaphat are related with those of the kings of Israel.

22:48–51 Though Edom had challenged the rule of Solomon (cf. 11:14–22), they were subject to Judah. Jehoshaphat attempted to establish a port with freight-bearing ships at Ezion Geber, perhaps attempting to revive the commercial trade of the days of Solomon. No explanation is given for the destruction of the ships. Solomon had been successful because of his alliance with the experienced mariners of Phoenicia. This was another alliance of Jehoshaphat with the northern kingdom that failed.

Rule of Ahaziah (22:52–54)

The reign of Ahaziah was less than two years because the chronology gives both the years of his accession and death as a full year (see the chronological chart). Joram, a second son of Ahab, came to rule in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat (2Kgs 3:1). The account of his death shows his allegiance to the religion of his mother.

Appendix: Chronology of Israel and Judah

This chronology depends on a system of dual dating and co-regencies. Dual dating means the synchronism is given according to the accession of sole reign, while the total years include the years of co-regency. The total years of the reigns in Kings are much more than the actual years of the chronology. Correlation of the dates also indicates that Israel began its year in the spring, while Judah began the new year in the fall.

930  Division of Solomon’s Kingdom
Israel Judah
930  Jeroboam 930  Rehoboam
  913  Abijah
  910  Asa (910–869)
909  Nadab  
908  Baasha  
886  Elah  
886  Zimri  
885  Omri

885  Tibni

880  End of division with Tibni  
874  Ahab  
  872  Jehoshaphat
  871  Illness of Asa
853  Ahaziah 853  Jehoram regent in Judah
852  Joram
  848  Jehoram Sole Rule
841  Jehu 841  Ahaziah / Athalia
  835  Joash Sole Rule (seventh year of total)
814  Jehoahaz
798  Jehoash
  796  Amaziah
793  Jeroboam II
  792  Azariah / Uzziah
782  End of reign of Jehoash
767  End of reign of Amaziah
753  Zechariah
752  Menahem in Samaria
      Pekah in Tirzah
750  Jotham co-regent
742  Pekaiah 743  Ahaz coregent
740  Pekah (Sole Rule) 740  Jotham Sole Rule
732  Hoshea
  731  Ahaz Sole Rule
722  End of Israel 729  Hezekiah coregent
  715  Hezekiah
  701  Attack of Sennacherib
  697  Manasseh coregent
  687  Manasseh
  643  Amon
  640  Josiah
  609  Jehoahaz
  609  Jehoiakim
  598  Jehoiachin
  597  Zedekiah
  586  Destruction of Jerusalem


Beal, Lissa M. W. 1 & 2 Kings. Apollos Old Testament Commentary 9. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2014.

Cogan, Mordechai. I Kings: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Anchor Bible 10. New York: Doubleday, 2000.

Cogan, Mordecai and Hayim Tadmor, II Kings: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. New York: Doubleday, 1988.

Cogan, Mordechai. The Raging Torrent: Historical Inscriptions from Assyria and Babylonia Relating to Ancient Israel. Jerusalem: Carta, 2008.

Jost, Lynn. 1 & 2 Kings. Believers Church Bible Commentary 34. Harrisonburg VA: Herald Press, 2021.

King, Philip J., Amos, Hosea, Micah—An Archaeological Commentary. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1988.

Konkel, August H. 1 & 2 Kings. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.

Stern, Ephraim. Archaeology of the Land of the Bible: That Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian Periods (732–332 B.C.E.). Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, Vol II. New Haven: Hale University Press, 2001.

Thiele, Edwin R. The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings. 3d ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1983.

Wiseman, Donald. 1 & 2 Kings: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downer’s Grove, IL. Inter-Varsity Press, 1993.

Endnotes & Permissions

1. Those interested in textual history may wish to consult the study of August H. Konkel, “The Sources of the Story of Hezekiah in the Book of Isaiah,” Vetus Testamentum XLIII 4 (1993) 462–81.

2. The formulation of the evaluations of each king is one of the few criteria that can be used as concrete literary evidence for the process of composition. This study was first done by the European scholar Helga Weippert of Tübingen in the article “Die ‘deuteronomistchen’ Beurteilungen der Kônige von Israel and Juda und das Problem der Redaktion der Kônigsbücher” (“The Deuteronomic assessment of the kings of Israel and Juda and the problem of the redaction of the Books of Kings”), Biblica 53/3 (1972) 301–39.

3. For the significance of questions asked without the usual interrogative, see Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar edited by E. Kautzsch and A. E. Cowley, par 150a, 150g, h. This is part of a double question (cf. 1Kgs 1:27), which implies disbelief (Gen 17:17).

4. Details of contacts between Israel and Egypt are provided by Kenneth Kitchen in The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt: 1100–650 BC, 2nd ed. (Croyden, England: Oxbow Books, 2015). Reference in this commentary to various Egyptian correlations are from this history.

5. For a linguistic and archaeological discussion of these places of worship, see Ziony Zevit, The Religions of Ancient Israel (London: Continuum, 2001), especially pages 262–64. A full study is provided by P. H. Vaughn, The Meaning of “Bama” in the Old Testament: A Study of Etymological, Textual and Archaeological Evidence (Cambridge University Press, 1974).

6. The actual dimensions need to be inferred from the description of how the tabernacle was to be constructed. The dimensions indicate that the outer boards form a rectangle of thirty cubits by ten cubits. The inside is further separated by a curtain creating a most holy place of ten cubits in length, width, and height. The temple is modelled on these dimensions.

7. An illustrated discussion of this temple can be found in an article by John Monson, “The `Ain Dara Temple: Closest Solomonic Parallels,Biblical Archaeology Review May/June 2000, 2–35, 67.

8. The text of these verses appears to be records utilized for a narrative style, which already caused difficulty for the ancient translators. The “four” of the second door might describe the square corridor linking the doors. The inner shrine of temple XVI at Tell Tayinat Syria (present-day far-east Turkey) was separated from the hall by a substantial wall. It also had a raised platform with a podium. The description of Solomon’s temple fits this structure. A study of building XVI is provided by Timothy P. Harrison and James F. Osborne in Journal of Cuneiform Studies 64 (2012), 125–43.

9. For a discussion and illustration of such shields, see the study of Alan Millard, “King Solomon’s Shields,” in Scripture and Other Artifacts: Essays on the Bible and Archaeology in Honor of Philip J. King, ed. Michael Coogan et al. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1994), 286–95.

10. This idiom or elements of it occur several times in Scripture. It is analyzed by Shemaryahu Talmon and Weston Fields in “The Collocation mstyn bqyr `tswr w`zwb and its meaning in Zeitschrift fur die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 101 (1989), 85–109. Rather than slave or free, the sense is ruler-redeemer, a particular sense of the words in this construction.

11. The course of the campaign of Sheshonq in the Karnak stele is discussed in detail in an appendix by Kitchen, Third Intermediate Period, 432–47.

12. A translation of the text with references to biblical passages and commentary is provide by K. Lawson Younger, Jr. in Context of Scripture: Monumental Inscriptions from the Biblical World, vol 2.113A, ed. William W. Hallo and K. Lawson Younger (Leiden: Brill, 2003).

The text of 1 Kings, excluding all Bible quotations, is © 2023 by The Gospel Coalition. The Gospel Coalition (TGC) gives you permission to reproduce this work in its entirety, without any changes, in English for noncommercial distribution throughout the world. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are the author’s own translation.

1 Kings 1


David in His Old Age

1:1 Now King David was old and advanced in years. And although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm. Therefore his servants said to him, “Let a young woman be sought for my lord the king, and let her wait on the king and be in his service. Let her lie in your arms,1 that my lord the king may be warm.” So they sought for a beautiful young woman throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The young woman was very beautiful, and she was of service to the king and attended to him, but the king knew her not.

Adonijah Sets Himself Up as King

Now 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. His father had never at any time displeased him by asking, “Why have you done thus and so?” He was also a very handsome man, and he was born next after Absalom. He conferred with Joab the son of Zeruiah and with Abiathar the priest. And they followed Adonijah and helped him. But Zadok the priest and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada and Nathan the prophet and Shimei and Rei and David’s mighty men were not with Adonijah.

Adonijah sacrificed sheep, oxen, and fattened cattle by the Serpent’s Stone, which is beside En-rogel, and he invited all his brothers, the king’s sons, and all the royal officials of Judah, 10 but he did not invite Nathan the prophet or Benaiah or the mighty men or Solomon his brother.

Nathan and Bathsheba Before David

11 Then Nathan said to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon, “Have you not heard that Adonijah the son of Haggith has become king and David our lord does not know it? 12 Now therefore come, let me give you advice, that you may save your own life and the life of your son Solomon. 13 Go in at once to King David, and say to him, ‘Did you not, my lord the king, swear to your servant, saying, “Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne”? Why then is Adonijah king?’ 14 Then while you are still speaking with the king, I also will come in after you and confirm2 your words.”

15 So Bathsheba went to the king in his chamber (now the king was very old, and Abishag the Shunammite was attending to the king). 16 Bathsheba bowed and paid homage to the king, and the king said, “What do you desire?” 17 She said to him, “My lord, you swore to your servant by the LORD your God, saying, ‘Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne.’ 18 And now, behold, Adonijah is king, although you, my lord the king, do not know it. 19 He has sacrificed oxen, fattened cattle, and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the sons of the king, Abiathar the priest, and Joab the commander of the army, but Solomon your servant he has not invited. 20 And now, my lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are on you, to tell them who shall sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. 21 Otherwise it will come to pass, when my lord the king sleeps with his fathers, that I and my son Solomon will be counted offenders.”

22 While she was still speaking with the king, Nathan the prophet came in. 23 And they told the king, “Here is Nathan the prophet.” And when he came in before the king, he bowed before the king, with his face to the ground. 24 And Nathan said, “My lord the king, have you said, ‘Adonijah shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne’? 25 For he has gone down this day and has sacrificed oxen, fattened cattle, and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the king’s sons, the commanders3 of the army, and Abiathar the priest. And behold, they are eating and drinking before him, and saying, ‘Long live King Adonijah!’ 26 But me, your servant, and Zadok the priest, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and your servant Solomon he has not invited. 27 Has this thing been brought about by my lord the king and you have not told your servants who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?”

Solomon Anointed King

28 Then King David answered, “Call Bathsheba to me.” So she came into the king’s presence and stood before the king. 29 And the king swore, saying, “As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my soul out of every adversity, 30 as I swore to you by the LORD, the God of Israel, saying, ‘Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne in my place,’ even so will I do this day.” 31 Then Bathsheba bowed with her face to the ground and paid homage to the king and said, “May my lord King David live forever!”

32 King David said, “Call to me Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada.” So they came before the king. 33 And the king said to them, “Take with you the servants of your lord and have Solomon my son ride on my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon. 34 And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet there anoint him king over Israel. Then blow the trumpet and say, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ 35 You shall then come up after him, and he shall come and sit on my throne, for he shall be king in my place. And I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and over Judah.” 36 And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada answered the king, “Amen! May the LORD, the God of my lord the king, say so. 37 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.”

38 So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon ride on King David’s mule and brought him to Gihon. 39 There Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, “Long live King Solomon!” 40 And all the people went up after him, playing on pipes, and rejoicing with great joy, so that the earth was split by their noise.

41 Adonijah and all the guests who were with him heard it as they finished feasting. And when Joab heard the sound of the trumpet, he said, “What does this uproar in the city mean?” 42 While he was still speaking, behold, Jonathan the son of Abiathar the priest came. And Adonijah said, “Come in, for you are a worthy man and bring good news.” 43 Jonathan answered Adonijah, “No, for our lord King David has made Solomon king, 44 and the king has sent with him Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites. And they had him ride on the king’s mule. 45 And Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet have anointed him king at Gihon, and they have gone up from there rejoicing, so that the city is in an uproar. This is the noise that you have heard. 46 Solomon sits on the royal throne. 47 Moreover, the king’s servants came to congratulate our lord King David, saying, ‘May your God make the name of Solomon more famous than yours, and make his throne greater than your throne.’ And the king bowed himself on the bed. 48 And the king also said, ‘Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who has granted someone4 to sit on my throne this day, my own eyes seeing it.’”

49 Then all the guests of Adonijah trembled and rose, and each went his own way. 50 And Adonijah feared Solomon. So he arose and went and took hold of the horns of the altar. 51 Then it was told Solomon, “Behold, Adonijah fears King Solomon, for behold, he has laid hold of the horns of the altar, saying, ‘Let King Solomon swear to me first that he will not put his servant to death with the sword.’” 52 And Solomon said, “If he will show himself a worthy man, not one of his hairs shall fall to the earth, but if wickedness is found in him, he shall die.” 53 So King Solomon sent, and they brought him down from the altar. And he came and paid homage to King Solomon, and Solomon said to him, “Go to your house.”


[1] 1:2 Or in your bosom

[2] 1:14 Or expand on

[3] 1:25 Hebrew; Septuagint Joab the commander

[4] 1:48 Septuagint one of my offspring