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Explore the Bible Series

December 5, 2010

 

Background Passage: I Kings 1:1-4:34 (II Chronicles 1:1-13)

Lesson Passage: I Kings 3:3-15

 

Introduction to I and II Kings:

Authorship and Date: I and II Kings were written anonymously.The author used at least three sources to compile these historical accounts:

  1. The Book of the Acts of Solomon (See I Kings 11:41)
  2. The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel (See numerous references such as I Kings 14:19; 15:31; 16:5)
  3. The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah (See numerous references such as I Kings 14:29; 15:7; 22:45)

These books cover more than four hundred years of Hebrew history, from the reign of Solomon (c. 970 B.C.) to the exile and lengthy incarceration of Jehoiachin (c. 560 B.C.); therefore, whoever wrote this history did so some time after the Babylonian captivity began.Some Old Testament scholars believe several writers produced I and II Kings, but Paul House argues humbly and, I think persuasively, that a single author produced this work (See 1,2 Kings: The New American Commentary).

 

Historical Setting : The first eleven chapters deal with the United Kingdom, under Kings David and Solomon. The text gives special attention to the reign of Solomon and the construction of the Temple.Beginning on Chapter Twelve, the text unfolds the sorted history of the divided Monarchy, starting with the rivalry between Jeroboam (Northern Kingdom of Israel) and Rehoboam (Southern Kingdom of Judah). Though the chronology presents some challenges for Bible students, I and II Kings describes the history of the rise and decline of both Israel and Judah.In addition to understanding the internal workings of Hebrew history, it seems necessary to trace at least the general contours of international circumstances that influenced Jewish history (Paul House also provides a helpful summary of these matters).

1.      Egypt: Though Egyptís former glory had diminished, she still troubled Judah during the reign of Egyptian King Shishak.He assaulted Jerusalem during the reign of Rehoboam (c. 925 B.C.), and, in doing so, severely limited Judahís political and military power for a generation. ††More than three hundred years later, Pharaoh Neco allied with Assyria against the rising Babylonian Empire, and, Judahís King Josiah was killed in the ďcrossfireĒ of this conflict.

2.      Syria (Aram): For significant part of the ninth Century, Syrian Kings Ben-Hadad and Hazael terrorized Israel, taking several important cities and generally disrupting Israelite trade and political stability.Eventually, the ascendance of Assyria crippled Syrian power with the death of Hazael and the fall of Damascus.

3.      Assyria: The cruel and ambitious Assyrians terrorized both Judah and Israel.Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727 B.C.) initiated Assyrian intimidation and conquest of Israel reduced Israel to vassal state, and subsequent monarchs, Shalmaneser and Sennacherib razed the Northern Kingdom, a devastation from which Israel never recovered.

4.      Babylon: In 612 B.C., Babylon conquered Nineveh, the capitol of Assyria, thus shifting permanently the balance of power in the ancient Middle East. After defeating the Egyptians at the battle of Carchemish (605 B.C.), Nebuchadnezzar reduced Judah to vassalage; however, dissatisfied with Judahís level of submission, the Babylonians laid waste to Judah (586 B.C.).

Genre of the Text: To this point, I have treated this introduction from the perspective of a historian; however, I and II Kings are not objective historyóthis work (please recall, the Hebrew Bible initially made no distinction between I and II Kings) deciphered the complexities of Jewish history from a ďpropheticĒ vantage point.The author clearly wrote from a theological perspective, a point of view that profoundly influenced his interpretation of the material.Of course, conservative Christians believe this viewpoint came from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

 

Lesson Outline:

 

I.       The Ascension of King Solomon (1:1-2:46)

A.    Davidís ill health (1:1-4): Due to advanced years, David could not regulate his body temperature; so, his servants brought a beautiful young woman, Abishag, to lay by the ailing king.The text says they never consummated the relationship, but the royal family clearly regarded Abishag as Davidís wife.

B.     Adonijahís ambition for his fathersí throne (1:5-10): Adonijah was the eldest son of Davidís wife Haggith and may have been Davidís eldest surviving son.As the oldest son, he assumed that he would assume his fatherís throne when David died, and he conspired with powerful allies to usurp the crown even before Davidís death.He amassed an army, and persuaded Joab (Davidís nephew and former trusted military commander) and Abiathar (high priest and former ally of David) to support his claim to the throne. The Prophet Nathan, Zadok (an important priest), and Benaiah (captain of Davidís army) remained faithful to David and Solomon. Adonijah assembled his friends and allies to En-rogel to mark his ascension to the Hebrew throne.

C.     Nathan and Bathsheba warn David of Adonijahís treachery (1:11-27): David was unaware of Adonijahís plot to usurp the crown; so, Bathsheba (Solomonís mother) and Nathan alerted the king to his sonís scheme. David has already given his oath that Solomon would succeed him, and Bathsheba asked the aging monarch to honor his word.

D.    Solomon anointed king of Israel (1:28-40): David commanded that Zadok anoint Solomon, at the springs of Gihon.The prince rode a mule to the site of his coronation, and great celebration attended the joyous occasion, so loud that Adonijah, still in En-rogel, heard the tumult.

E.     The fear of Adonijah (1:41-53): Jonathan, son of Abiathar, brought news to Adonijah of Solomonís coronation, and the would-be kingís guests, struck with fear, abandoned the festivities an En-rogel.The news of Solomonís ascension frightened Adonijah so badly that he sought refuge at the altar in the tabernacle. As a result of Adonijahís apparent humility, Solomon determined to spare his half-brotherís life.

F.      Davidís final instructions to King Solomon (2:1-9): The dying king encouraged his son to live in obedience to Godís commandments, and he warned Solomon to bring revenge on Joab and Shimei. He also instructed the new king to honor Davidís trusted allies.

G.    The death of King David (2:10-12): Soon after Solomonís coronation, King David died, thus completing an eventful forty year reign.

 

II.    The Early Years of Solomonís Reign (2:11-4:34)

A.    The vengeance of Solomon (2:13-46)

1.      Vengeance on Adonijah (2:13-25): Foolishly, Adonijah still entertained aspirations to the throne, and he asked for the hand of his fatherís wife, Abishag.Fearful of directing asking Solomon, Adonijah involved Bathsheba in his scheme, but Solomon saw through his brotherís subterfuge and ordered the execution of Adonijah.

2.      Vengeance on Abiathar (2:26-27): Solomon remembered the former loyalty of Abiathar; so, the king spared his life, though he banished him from the priesthood.

3.      Vengeance on Joab (2:28-35): Though Joab had remained, to some degree, loyal to David, the generalís cruelty and treachery warranted a decree of execution.At Solomonís behest, Benaiah killed Joab at the tabernacle.

4.      Vengeance on Shimei (2:36-46): Solomon decided to spare the life of Shimei, but he stipulated that Shimei could not leave Jerusalem for any reason.After three years, Shimei retrieved two run-away servants, and, in doing so, he violated his agreement to remain in the city.Solomon, therefore, commanded Benaiah to kill Shimei.

B.     Solomonís Prayer for Wisdom (3:1-28)

1.      Solomonís marriage to an Egyptian wife and the continued idolatry of Israel (3: 1- 2)

2.      Godís appearance to Solomon at Gibeon (3:3-15):While the king worshipped at Gibeon, God appeared to him, in a dream, with a remarkable offer to grant Solomon any request.The king asked God for wisdom, and the request moved the heart of God, and the Lord gave him wisdom, wealth, and power, like no other king in Hebrew history.

3.      A test of Solomonís wisdom (3:16-28): A dispute arose between two prostitutes, a dispute over the death of an infant. One of the women accidentally killed her child, and, in her grief, she stole the living child of the other harlot.The women came to Solomon to resolve the conflict.Solomon, exercising his new-found wisdom, ordered the child cut in half.Of course, the childís mother, horrified by the prospect of losing her baby, deferred to the other prostitute, thus proving her maternity.

 

III. The Measure of Solomonís Kingdom (4:1-34)

A.    A list of administrators in Israel (4:1-19)

B.     The reputation of Solomon (4:20-34): Israel never, before or since, reached the heights of blessing and prosperity like in the early days of Solomonís reign.His reputation for wisdom spread throughout the Middle East.