Introduction to the Book of 1 Kings

Queen of Sheba Visits Solomon
The Queen of Sheba Visits Solomon (1 Kings 10). Getty Images

The book of 1 Kings traces the history of God's covenant people under Israel’s kings, beginning with the reign of King Solomon. These remarkably relevant writings include prophetic interpretations of how each king affected the spiritual decline of Israel and Judah.

Book of 1 Kings

  • Author: The books of 1 Kings and 2 Kings were originally one book. Jewish tradition credits Jeremiah the prophet as the author of 1 Kings, although Bible scholars are divided on the issue. Others attribute a group of anonymous authors called the Deuteronomists, since language from the book of Deuteronomy is repeated in 1 Kings. The true author of this book is unknown.
  • Date Written: Between BC 560 and 540.
  • Written To: The book was written to the people of Israel, and to all future readers of the Bible.
  • Landscape: 1 Kings is set in the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah.
  • Key Characters: King David, King Solomon, Rehoboam, Jeroboam, Elijah, Ahab, and Jezebel.

Book Summary

Ancient Israel had such great potential. It was the promised land of God's chosen people. King David, a mighty warrior, conquered Israel's enemies, ushering in an era of peace and prosperity.

David's son, King Solomon, received extraordinary wisdom from God. He built a magnificent temple, increased trade, and became the richest man of his time. But against God's clear command, Solomon married foreign wives, who led him away from singular worship of Jehovah. Solomon's book of Ecclesiastes details his mistakes and regret.

A series of mostly weak and idolatrous kings followed Solomon. Once a unified kingdom, Israel was divided. The worst of the kings was Ahab, who along with his queen Jezebel, encouraged the worship of Baal, the Canaanite sun-god and his female consort Ashtoreth. This peaked in a colossal showdown between the prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel.

After their false prophets were slain, Ahab and Jezebel swore revenge against Elijah, but it was God who exacted punishment. Ahab was slain in battle.

We can draw two lessons from 1 Kings. First, the company we keep can have a good or bad influence on us. Idolatry is still a danger today but in more subtle forms. When we have a solid understanding of what God expects from us, we are better prepared to choose wise friends and avoid temptation.

Second, Elijah's severe depression after his triumph on Mount Carmel shows us God's patience and loving-kindness. Today, the Holy Spirit is our comforter, bringing us through life's valley experiences.

Key Themes in the Book of 1 Kings

Idolatry has disastrous consequences. It causes the ruin of both individuals and nations. Idolatry is anything that becomes more important to us than God. 1 Kings records the rise and fall of King Solomon due to his involvement with the false gods and pagan customs of his foreign wives. It also details the decline of Israel because the later kings and people turned away from Jehovah, the One True God.

The temple honored God. Solomon built a beautiful temple in Jerusalem, which became the central place for Hebrews to worship. However, Israel's kings failed to wipe out the shrines to false gods throughout the country. Prophets of Baal, a pagan deity, were allowed to flourish and lead the people astray.

Prophets warn of God's truth. Elijah the prophet sternly warned the people of God's wrath over their disobedience, but the kings and people did not want to acknowledge their sin. Today, unbelievers mock the Bible, religion, and God.

God accepts repentance. Some kings were righteous and tried to lead the people back to God. God offers forgiveness and healing for those who sincerely turn from sin and come back to him.

Key Verses

1 Kings 4:29-31
God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. Solomon's wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt...And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations. (NIV)

1 Kings 18:38-39
Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The Lord-he is God! The Lord-he is God!" (NIV)

Outline of 1 Kings

  • David's death, Solomon's ascent as king - 1 Kings 1-2.
  • Solomon's wisdom and government - 1 Kings 3-4.
  • Building the temple and palace - 1 Kings 5-8.
  • Solomon's wives and his downfall - 1 Kings 9-12.
  • Northern tribes' revolt - 1 Kings 13.
  • Deeds of kings of Israel and Judah - 1 Kings 14-16.
  • Ministry of Elijah - 1 Kings 17-21.
  • Kings of Israel and Judah, Ahab's death - 1 Kings 22.