Its common to point out that Kings was originally one book, but I do think 1 Kings has its own discrete message. If Hollywood was making it as a franchise blockbuster I think the titles would be “1 Kings: rise of the prophets” and “2 Kings: fall of the kingdoms”.
The Bible’s narrative has had a pretty straight ahead drive from Abraham’s promise in Genesis through to this point, where we have the chosen people, the nation of Israel, in the Promised land, Canaan, with the presence of God in the temple, ruled by his holy law, the Torah.
If Kings hadn’t gone badly, the bible could have been a lot shorter. Everything that was promised in the first book has literally come true by the time Solomon finishes the temple. If humans were capable of obedience to God, happy ending.
But of course, we know now that a massive revelation was still to take place. We now know that gods people live in all nations, that everywhere is becoming the promised land, that every believer is a temple with the presence of God, and that by grace and sacrifice, God’s love has satisfied the rule of the law and he is our true king.
Israel had only the dimmest shape of any of this at the start of Kings, its a huge pivot in the world’s understanding of the nature of God. The tragic trajectory of Kings put the world on the path to those revelations.
God speaks only twice really during the reign of Solomon – telling him to obey the law above all and worship only one God. Among all the glitz of his time, there is a hollowness because he doesn’t quite do either. The kingdom splits, polytheism becomes the cultural norm. The northern kingdom – which doesn’t include Jerusalem and the temple – never has a King devoted to Jehovah.
And the most extraordinary thing happens, God speaks more and more powerfully through the prophets. His message is sort of too big for one person – Elijah and Elisha are like a single powerful message from God (Elijah doesn’t die, but hands his mantle to Elisha and is swept into the sky).
After the depression and banality of the all too familiar politics and corruption of the Kings, God’s power and his voice, full of abundance, gentleness, clarity and fairness …is like rain in the desert. In retrospect the message of Kings is clear: kingdoms fail but don’t panic. There is one, true, real God and he has bigger, more beautiful plans than we can dream of.
1 David brings divine authority to the politics of succession. Solomon named heir.
2 David’s advice, live for the law, be strong & courageous.
3 Solomon speaks to god, asks for wisdom. The promised land promise has come true!
4 Celebrating Solomon – and Israel’s wealth and wisdom
5 Building the temple, splendour in every way, but a bit spiritually hollow
6 The glory of the finished temple… but God is more interested in hearts than buildings
7 Still on the theme of Solomon’s glory, his grand palaces. The law had said otherwise
8 The dedication of the temple – the fullest earthly realisation of God’s promise
9 God tells Solomon about his presence in the temple and the need for monotheism…
10 Queen of Sheba praises the wealth of Solomon’s reign. fulfils & challenges the law.
11 Solomons death/faults – too many wives too many gods. Rebellion will follow
12 End of Israel-as-salvation. 10 tribes rebel and worship Golden Calves, like in exodus.
13 God is still acting, Rehoboam the rebel king hears and witnesses God’s power
14 the Kings pattern: the reigns of parallel kings, mostly ignoring God despite warnings
15 4 Kings: judgement for the north, the “lamp” of salvation from the south.
16 Dynasties of northern kings, increasingly corrupt. God’s word remains in prophesy
17 Elijah comes with word of a living god, deeds of an abundant god.
18 Jehovah vs Baal, Elijah vs Baal’s prophets. Faith, clarity, knowledge.
19 Desperate after his victory fails to change things, Elijah is given comfort and help
20 Setting up the fall of Ahab, a prophet killing king.
21 Stealing a vineyard is the catalyst of Ahab’s judgement, spoken by Elijah
22 King Ahab tries to avoid prophesy/God, but dies in battle.