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Dr. J. Vernon McGee :: Comments for 1 Kings

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COMMENT: First Kings opens with the death of David and closes with the death of Jehoshaphat. The death of David, the reign of Solomon, and the division of the kingdom are the dominant features of 1 Kings. The evil reign of Ahab and Jezebel and the spectacular ministry of Elijah the prophet are the fitting climax.

I. Death of David, Chapters 1, 2

Chapter 1 David becomes senile. Adonijah, a son of David, takes advantage of his father’s condition and makes a bid for the throne. David anoints Solomon under pressure from Nathan and Bathsheba.
Evidently Absalom was the choice of David as his successor. After Absalom’s death and as David approached old age, he lost interest in choosing his successor. This led to confusion and the abortive attempt of Adonijah.

Chapter 2 David charges Solomon. David’s charge to Solomon (vs. 2, 3) reveals his attitude toward Solomon. Charging him to show himself a man reveals that David had little confidence in a successor who had been reared in the palace among women. David knew the tough discipline of the caves and rugged outdoor life. Solomon had a taste for comforts, luxury, and ease. David’s charge reveals something of his own character.
David’s legacy to Solomon is sometimes ignored.

(1) He transferred the leadership of the nation from the house of Saul and the tribe of Benjamin to Judah and established the royal house of David.

(2) He established Jerusalem as the Holy City and as the religious center and national capital for all Jews.

(3) He stamped out idolatry, practically speaking, and made the worship of Jehovah universal in the land.

(4) He made conquests of many nations who paid tribute to Israel and its king. He extended the borders of the country to Egypt on the south and to the Euphrates River in the north and east, including far more territory than at any other time in the nation’s history.

(5) Although an oriental monarch with a sizable harem, David’s foreign marriages were largely political and relatively free from religious and moral corruption.

(6) David was a poet and musician who endeared himself to the people as the “sweet psalmist of Israel.”

(7) David planned the Temple, which was to exalt the religious life of the nation and the worship of Jehovah, although he was not permitted to build the Lord’s house.

(8) Although there was still rivalry of a sort between the ten tribes of the north and Judah (and had been ever since the death of Saul and his son), even so, David had no serious difficulty in uniting all the tribes under his rule and about the national capital at Jerusalem.

(9) At the time of David’s death, the nation was second to none in power and military prowess, and the people had a large measure of peace and freedom, as every man “sat under his own vine and fig tree.”

David’s death injects a sad note into the record.
Adonijah’s treachery is revealed in his request to Bathsheba. Adonijah is slain, Abiathar removed from the priesthood, and Joab flees but is captured and slain.
Solomon made Benaiah captain and Zadok priest.
Shimei, of the house of Saul, who cursed David, is executed.

II. Glory of Solomon’s reign, Chapters 3-11

A. Solomon’s prayer for wisdom, Chapters 3, 4

Chapter 3 Solomon was married to the daughter of Pharaoh, but at this time he loved the Lord (v. 3). The spirit of compromise is evident in this marriage as well as his failure to remove idolatry from the land.
Solomon prayed for wisdom. Evidently he was praying for political wisdom and not spiritual discernment. That God granted his request is manifested in the method he used in determining which of the two harlots was the real mother of the child.

Chapter 4 Peace and prosperity became a reality (vs. 20, 25, 26). Solomon was a prince of peace, while David was a man of war. Solomon became famous because of his wisdom. Note the areas in which he was a specialist (see vs. 32-34).

B. Building of the Temple, Chapters 5-8

Chapter 5 Solomon engages Hiram, King of Tyre, to build the Temple. His workers were the greatest builders of that day. The building required 30,000 Israelites, 150,000 Canaanites, 550 overseers, and 3500 subordinates.

Chapter 6 Solomon begins to build the Temple. It was patterned after the wilderness Tabernacle but was about twice as large. It was more ornate, elaborate, and costly. The simplicity of the Tabernacle was lost, and there seemed to be definite spiritual deterioration. There are several indications of this. For instance, the Tabernacle depended solely upon the light of the lampstand in the Holy Place, but in the Temple there were narrow windows. Natural light is substituted for the light which speaks of Christ. Also, the measurements of the cherubim over the mercy seat are given while there was no measurement of the cherubim in the Tabernacle because it speaks of the deity of Christ, which cannot be measured.
The striking feature of the construction of the Temple is stated in verse 7. It took 7 years to build the Temple (v. 38).
Many other buildings surrounded the Temple proper.
The estimated cost of the Temple is $2,450,000,000 to $4,900,000,000.

Chapter 7 Solomon builds other structures:

His own palace — 13 years in building (v. 1),
House of the forest of Lebanon (v. 2),
Palace for the daughter of Pharaoh (v. 8),
Pillars for the porch of the Temple (v. 21),
Molten sea for the Temple (v. 23),
Ten lavers of brass (v. 38), and
Articles of furniture for the Temple (vs. 48, 49).

Chapter 8 The glory of the Lord fills the Temple after the ark is brought from the Tabernacle and installed inside the Holy of Holies (vs. 10, 11).
Solomon dedicates the Temple, giving the proper credit to David (vs. 17-20). See 1 Chronicles 22 for the account of David’s gathering all the materials for the Temple. It is properly David’s temple; the only temple Solomon had was on the side of his head.
Solomon’s prayer of dedication reveals that he had no primitive view of God (v. 27). It is a pagan notion that God dwells in a house.
The Temple becomes the center of worship. The world was to come to the Temple to worship. Israel in captivity was to turn toward the Temple to pray.
The large number of animals sacrificed (v. 63) poses no problem when it is considered that many temporary altars were erected for this occasion (v. 64).

C. Fame of Solomon, Chapters 9, 10

Chapter 9 God appears to Solomon the second time (v. 2) and encourages his heart. God sets up David, a very human standard, by which to measure the kings that followed him (v. 4).
The fame of Solomon spreads throughout the world. Hiram was not happy with the payment for material that Solomon made to him (v. 12).

Chapter 10 The visit of the queen of Sheba reveals that Solomon had succeeded in witnessing for God to the world of that day (see also v. 24). Solomon’s fame had spread, and obviously multitudes were coming to Jerusalem to worship the living and true God (v. 1). In the present dispensation, the church is to go to the world, but the commission to go into all the world was not given to Israel. As Israel was true to God, she was a witness to the world, and the world came to Jerusalem to worship.
“And his ascent” (v. 5) should be translated “burnt offering.” This is the offering that speaks more fully of Christ and His substitutionary death than all others. The queen of Sheba and the world came to know about Christ through the burnt offering — “without shedding of blood is no remission of sins.” The testimony of the queen of Sheba reveals that she had come to know the living and true God (vs. 7-9).
This is one isolated experience out of many that could have been recorded. (The Book of Acts records only certain conversions, such as that of the Ethiopian eunuch.) This chapter reveals that for a time Israel succeeded in witnessing to the world.
The wealth of Solomon is given in verses 14-21. The luxury of his kingdom is revealed in verse 22. All these are luxury items:

Apes for entertainment,
Peacocks for beauty,
Gold, silver, and ivory for magnificent decorations.

There is a frivolous and tragic note here that is symptomatic. He is called to give a witness to the world, and he spends his energy and time with apes and peacocks to satisfy a whim.

D. Shame and death of Solomon, 1 Kings 11

Chapter 11 Solomon is the most colossal failure on the pages of Scripture. “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” He had the greatest opportunity of any man who ever lived. He began by failing to remove false religion (1 Kings 3:3). What was at first a spot is now the plague of leprosy. He has a harem of 1000 wives (vs. 1-3). David also had a harem, but his was largely political while Solomon’s was licentious.
The Lord was angry with Solomon (v. 9). The kingdom is to be divided as a judgment from God, yet it would not happen in Solomon’s day — for David’s sake (vs. 12, 13).
Jeroboam is promoted by Solomon but plots to lead the ten northern tribes in revolt according to the word of Ahijah the prophet (vs. 29-31). When Solomon discovers this, he attempts to slay Jeroboam who flees to Egypt until the death of Solomon.
The death of Solomon concludes the chapter. He reigned 40 years.

III. Division of the kingdom, 1 Kings 122 Kings 16

1 Kings

Chapter 12 Rehoboam, son of Solomon, succeeds to the throne. Jeroboam returns from Egypt and leads ten tribes in demanding a reduction in taxes. Rehoboam, under the influence of the young men of his kingdom, having rejected the counsel of the old men who were Solomon’s advisors, turns down the request of the ten northern tribes. Instead of reducing taxes, he threatens to raise them (vs. 10, 11). Therefore, Jeroboam leads the ten tribes in revolt. First Kings was written during the time of the division of the kingdom (v. 19).
Jeroboam divides the nation religiously as well as politically by setting up a golden calf in Bethel and one in the tribe of Dan. The northern tribes go into idolatry (vs. 28-30).

Chapter 13 God grants Jeroboam another chance by sending a prophet to him with a warning and a sign. Jeroboam seems to repent at the time, but finally plunges into total apostasy.

Chapter 14 Ahijah the prophet pronounces judgment on Jeroboam and measures him according to David (v. 8).
Rehoboam king of Judah led the people into idolatry and sin. There was an abnormal increase of homosexuality (v. 24).
Shishak, king of Egypt, came against Jerusalem and captured it. He took as booty the gold shields that Solomon had on display. Rehoboam substitutes shields of brass. There was deterioration in the kingdom now as well as division.
Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, dies.
This chapter, which describes the reigns of Jeroboam and Rehoboam, sets the pace for the sordid record of the kings of the divided kingdom. There was not one good king in the northern kingdom of Israel. There were nineteen of them, and all were bad. In the southern kingdom there were twenty kings — twelve of them were bad. Only eight of them could be labeled good kings. Out of the eight, only five were outstanding. (See chronological table of the kings of the divided kingdom.)

Chapter 15 Abijam, son of Rehoboam, succeeded his father on the throne of Judah. He was as wicked as his father (v. 3). David continues as the standard of excellence for the kings of both Israel and Judah (v. 5). (Jeroboam became the standard of evil for the kings of the northern kingdom.) The one black mark against David is recorded, not covered. Abijam did nothing worthy of mention, either good or bad; his death is recorded here.
Asa succeeded Abijam in the southern kingdom of Judah. Asa compares to David (v. 11). He led in the first revival of the nation. First Kings gives only half a chapter to his reign, but 2 Chronicles gives three chapters (chapters 14, 15, 16). We will explore his reign when we come to the Book of Chronicles.
Asa did have to bribe Ben-hadad, king of Syria, and he warred with Israel continually. Jehoshaphat succeeded Asa as king of Judah. Nadab, son of Jeroboam, succeeded him as king of Israel. He was evil (v. 26).
Baasha led a conspiracy against him, slew him, and reigned in his stead (vs. 27, 28). Baasha continued war against Asa (v. 32).

Chapter 16 Baasha’s evil reign lasted for twenty-four years. Elah his son succeeded him but reigned only two years. Zimri, a captain, slew Elah while he was drunk.
Zimri destroyed every male member of the house of Baasha. He reigned only seven days, for Omri, captain of the host of Israel, besieged Tirzah and captured it. Zimri committed suicide by burning down the house in which he was.
The northern kingdom was divided between Omri and Tibni for four years. Tibni died and Omri reigned alone for eight years. Omri built Samaria and made it the capital of the northern kingdom. He plunged Israel into the depths of evil (v. 25). His pattern was Jeroboam (v. 26).
Ahab, son of Omri, succeeded him (v. 28). He was worse than his father; he was the worst king of all (v. 30). He compounded evil by marrying Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Zidonians and high priest of Baal. What evil designs Ahab did not think of, Jezebel did.

Chapter 17 Elijah the prophet is introduced by his walking into the court of Ahab and Jezebel and making a very brave announcement — no rain for three years but according to the word of Elijah. Then he departs in just such a dramatic fashion.
He retires to the brook Cherith where he is fed by ravens and drinks of the brook until it dries up. He learned that his life was no more than a dried up brook. He could truly sing, “Make me a channel of blessing today.” He was sent by the Lord to the widow of Zarephath. For many days Elijah looked down into an empty flour barrel and sang the doxology. He learned that his life was no more than an empty flour barrel. When the widow’s son died, he learned that this life was no more than a dead body. He also learned that life comes from contact.

Chapter 18 This is one of the most spectacular chapters of Scripture. The meeting between Elijah and Ahab is again dramatic. Note the three times it is announced, “Behold, Elijah is here” (vs. 8, 11, 14).
The contest is sensational as Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal (vs. 21-24). It is Elijah versus 450 prophets of Baal. John Knox was right — “One with God is a majority.” The prophets of Baal use every kind of incantation to bring fire down upon the offering in the name of Baal. Elijah looks on with a bored and skeptical eye. He uses the rapier of irony and sarcasm. They yell louder and become more frantic, but to no avail. Elijah, after the prophets of Baal retire in defeat, repairs the altar of twelve stones, showing that the nation Israel is one. He then arranges the wood and the sacrifice. When barrel after barrel of water is brought up from the blue Mediterranean to Mount Carmel and poured on the altar, Elijah utters one of the great prayers of Scripture, brief but effective (vs. 36, 37).
After slaying the prophets of Baal, he announces the approach of a rainstorm from out over the Mediterranean Sea.

Chapter 19 Ahab reports to Jezebel that Elijah had slain all her prophets of Baal. She vows to kill Elijah. “And when he saw that” (v. 3) reveals for the first time that Elijah is a man of like passions as we are. He got his eyes off the Lord and ran from the woman. He beat a cowardly retreat to Beersheba, where he left his servant, and continued on into the wilderness to crawl under a juniper tree where he requested that he might die.
Evidently Elijah was suffering from nervous exhaustion. He was physically and mentally depleted. God gave him nourishing food and plenty of sleep. He informed Elijah that “the journey is too great for thee” (v. 7).
Then the Lord rebuked him and treated him to a spectacular display:

(1) strong wind — but God was not in the wind;

(2) earthquake — but God was not in the earthquake;

(3) fire — but God was not in the fire.

Elijah loved all of this. Then came the still small voice. This is contrary to Elijah, but God was in the still small voice.
Elijah returns to the scene of action and danger. On the way, he calls Elisha.

Chapter 20 God grants to Ahab another opportunity of turning to Him. A prophet of God promises victory to Ahab over the Syrians. God grants the victory, which seemed impossible.
Again the prophet warns Ahab that the king of Syria will return, but God will give him another victory. God granted this victory also, but Ahab failed to obey God by sparing Ben-hadad. Judgment of God is pronounced upon Ahab (v. 42).

Chapter 21 Ahab attempts to buy the vineyard of Naboth, but Naboth refuses to sell. Ahab returns to his palace like a spoiled child. Jezebel promises to get the vineyard. She has Naboth slain through a dastardly plot. Ahab is overjoyed and goes to claim the vineyard. God sends Elijah to meet Ahab and pronounce judgment upon him (v. 19). Just as Naboth died, Ahab will die, and the dogs will lick his blood in the same place.

Be not deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. (Galatians 6:7)

This is another instance of the operation of this immutable law of God. Also, judgment is pronounced upon the line of Ahab (v. 22) and upon Jezebel (v. 23). Ahab repents in a measure, and God delays judgment but does not revoke the sentence upon Ahab and Jezebel.

Chapter 22 It is strange that Jehoshaphat would become an ally of Ahab, but his son married a daughter of Ahab and Jezebel (2 Kings 8:16-18). Before making war against Syria, Jehoshaphat, who had real spiritual discernment, asked that a prophet of God be called (vs. 5, 7). Micaiah, a prophet of God, is called (vs. 8, 9). He is one of the unsung great men of God. The prophets of Baal had already told Ahab what he wanted to hear. Micaiah at first resorted to sarcasm and comedy (v. 15). Note the reaction of Ahab (v. 16).
Then Micaiah gave a ridiculous parable. Imagine God asking any creature for advice (vs. 20-23). This was a subtle way of calling the false prophets of Baal liars. Note the reaction of Ahab to Micaiah’s prophecy (v. 18). Ahab orders him kept in prison until he returns from battle. Micaiah had one parting shot (v. 28). Ahab will not return alive.
Ahab uses a clever and crooked device to escape from being killed in battle. He wore the uniform of a common soldier, while Jehoshaphat was the only one dressed as a king. Ahab did not escape. Note the irony of it all:

And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of his armor. Wherefore, he said unto the driver of his chariot, Turn thine hand, and carry me out of the host; for I am wounded. (v. 34)

Note how literally the prophecy of Elijah was fulfilled (vs. 37, 38).
Ahaziah, his son, succeeded him.
Jehoshaphat returned home a sadder but wiser man. He refused to make a further alliance with Ahaziah (v. 49).
First Kings closes with the two-year reign of Ahaziah who walked in the steps of his father, Ahab.

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