1 Kings Summary
As the illustrious life of King David draws to a close, only some quick thinking by the prophet Nathan and Solomon's mom Bath-sheba prevents Adonijah from stealing the throne from Solomon, the rightful king. Solomon has Adonijah executed along with the rest of his enemies, and gets to work building an empire. He prays for God to give him the wisdom to rule, and God delivers big time, throwing in riches and long life to boot. Solomon becomes the wisest, richest, most powerful king in the world, and begins construction on a temple to worship the Lord.
We're treated to an exhaustively detailed catalogue of the materials and dimensions of the temple, which becomes the most spectacular monument of all time. God appears to Solomon in a dream a few times and promises to dwell in his temple and bless Solomon's posterity if he's faithful to him. If not, his heirs will lose the kingdom. Solomon dedicates the temple and becomes an international celebrity, wowing the Queen of Sheba and reigning in righteous glory for years.
Righteous, that is, until he accumulates 1,000 wives and concubines, including some who worship other gods. In his old age, Solomon forsakes God, worships his wives's gods, and angers the Lord. Almost as soon as Solomon dies, the kingdom erupts in civil war. Years pass, foreigners chip away at the kingdom's affluence, and each successive king is worse than the last until Ahab inherits the throne of Israel.
Ahab marries Jezebel, a raging idolatress, and the whole kingdom starts worshipping the idol Baal. Out of nowhere, a prophet named Elijah rides into town and starts making trouble for J-hab. He brings a devastating drought across the nation and becomes Israel's most-wanted fugitive. Elijah flees into the wilderness, gets fed by ravens, helps a widow, and finally heads back to Israel for a showdown with Ahab, Jazzy-bell, and 850 idolatrous priests. They have a spectacular prayer-fight on Mount Carmel in front of all the people. Elijah and God beat the pants off 'em, and Elijah kills all of the idolatrous priests. Once again, he's at the top of Jezebel's kill-list.
Elijah runs into the wilderness to die in peace, but angels send him to Mount Horeb. There, Elijah encounters God, who sends him back to finish some business, including calling his successor, Elisha. Meanwhile, Ahab and Jezebel are still making God mad, murdering Naboth for his vineyard and fighting a war the wrong way. Elijah prophesies that they and their house will be destroyed, and the prophecy starts to be fulfilled when Ahab dies in battle and dogs lick up his blood.
Adon' Think So, Adonijah: David Crowns Solomon As King
- As 1st Kings begins, David has gotten pretty old and pretty cold. His aged body can't even keep itself warm no mo'. What's a chilly geriatric king to do?
- His servant says, "Hey, why not just get a young virgin to marry you and lie in your bosom all the time to keep you warm?" And David's like, "I could go for that."
- (We might have suggested perhaps some nice, snuggly puppies, but whatever.)
- So they search high and low and finally find a hot young thing to warm the King: Abishag the Shunammite, the fairest damsel in all the land. She comes to the palace, marries David, and shares her bodacious body-heat with him from then on. It's good to be king.
- However, they never consummate the marriage. It's tough to be old.
- Adonijah, one of David's sons, gets an idea: With his dad so old and decrepit, this would be the perfect time to seize the throne from the rightful heir, Solomon.
- So Adonijah starts to gather supporters, including Abiathar the high priest, and Joab the commander of the military.
- However, not everyone jumps on board, including Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Shimei (a frenemy of David's), and David's mightiest warriors, including Benaiah.
- Undeterred, Adonijah heads to the stone of Zoholeth and invites his brothers (minus Solomon, of course), his father's servants, and all the men of Judah to come watch him crown himself king.
- Nathan visits Bath-sheba to let her know about Adonijah's scheme before things get out of hand.
- They know that if Adonijah succeeds in becoming king, he will probably see both Bath-sheba and Solomon as threats and kill them.
- Bath-sheba and Nathan go to David's chamber (he's snuggling with Abishag, as usual) to tell him that Adonijah's trying to steal the crown.
- David hears them out, and tells Bath-sheba that Solomon will be king, just like he promised her. He commands Nathan, Benaiah, and Zadok to make it happen.
- They put Solomon on David's mule, have him ride to Gihon, anoint him with oil, blow a trumpet, and BAM! he's king. And there is much rejoicing.
- Meanwhile, Adonijah's just finishing what's supposed to be his coronation feast when he and his guests hear Solomon and the gang celebrating good times.
- Adonijah's supporters quickly realize they've picked the wrong horse in this race, and they get outta there before there's trouble.
- David's move has totally turned the tables, and now it's Adonijah that's in danger of being killed as an obvious threat to Solomon.
- Desperate, Adonijah rushes to an altar in the tabernacle and grabs ahold of its horns. This is totally like reaching home base in tag, and nobody can kill you as long as you're there. Adonijah refuses to let go of the horns until Solomon promises not to kill him.
- Solomon's like, "Look man, if you stay in line I'll leave you alone. But if not, you're dead."
- That's good enough for Adonijah. He bows before Solomon's throne, then goes home.
David Dies Of Natural Causes; Solomon's Enemies Die Of Benaiah
- Before he dies, David's final advice to Solomon is as follows:
- "Be strong. Show that you're a man. Keep the Lord's commandments/judgments/testimonies/laws. If you do, you'll always prosper, and our sons will always sit on the throne of Israel. Remember when Joab murdered Abner and Amasa? He's gotta die. Take care of that. While you're at it, deal with Shimei, too. I promised I personallywouldn't kill him, even though he cursed me, so you do the honors. Oh—and make sure to watch after my friend Barzillai and his family. He helped me out when I needed him."
- David dies and is buried, ending a glorious 40-year reign.
- Solomon has hardly begun his own tenure as king when Adonijah visits Bath-sheba with a shady proposal: He wants to marry the newly widowed Abishag, and he wants Bath-sheba to convince Solomon that it's a good idea. She agrees to try, for some reason.
- Solomon doesn't go for it. He's like, "Sheesh, Mom. Why don't you just ask me to give him the whole kingdom while you're at it? No— You know what? That's it. Adonijah's gonna die today."
- An over-reaction? Maybe not. See, when a king dies, all of his possessions (including his wives—no offense, wives) belong to his heir. So for Adonijah to try to marry Abishag was kind of like trying to become king all over again.
- At least, that's the way Solomon sees it, and he goes sort of Emperor-Palpatine-Executing-Order-66 on all of his enemies.
- He sends his right-hand man Benaiah to kill Adonijah, because that's what Benaiah does best. Adios, Adonijah.
- Solomon also seems to suspect that Abiathar and Joab were involved in Adonijah's little machinations, so he decides to take care of them, too.
- First, he banishes Abiathar to his home in Anathoth and strips him of his role as a priest.
- Joab hears about Adonijah and Abiathar, and he starts to sweat. He runs to the tabernacle to grab the horns of the altar for protection. Hey, it worked for Adonijah that one time, right?
- But Solomon sends Benaiah to the tabernacle. He's like, "Are you gonna come quietly, Jojo?" And Joab's like, "I ain't goin' nowheres! I'll stay here 'til I die!"
- Benaiah reports this to Solomon, who says, "That's the best idea Joab's ever had: Kill the murdering sonofagun."
- So Benaiah whacks Joab inside the tabernacle.
- With that, Benaiah becomes the senior commander of Solomon's military.
- Continuing to fulfill David's last wishes, Solomon puts Shimei on house arrest in Jerusalem as punishment for doing his father wrong years previously.
- If he crosses the brook Kidron, Solomon tells him, he's dead. Shimei swears he won't.
- Three years later, two of Shimei's servants run away across the brook Kidron, and he crosses it to go after them. Solomon hears about it, and Benaiah sends Shimei on a one-way trip to the morgue.
God Makes Solomon A Super-Genius
- His enemies all safely dead, Solomon makes an alliance with Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, by marrying his daughter. They live in the city of David while Solomon's palace in Jerusalem is being built.
- In those days, the Israelites made their animal sacrifices to God in "high places" (3:2) because they didn't have a permanent temple in which to worship—yet (more on that later).
- Now, despite all the Corleone-style executions and stuff, Solomon is actually a very pious guy. He obeys all of God's commandments, and worships him like he should.
- He goes to Gibeon, the "great high place" (3:4), to offer 1,000 sacrifices to God.
- One night, the Lord appears to him in a dream, and invites him to "Ask what I should give you" (3:4).
- Solomon says, "Give your servant […] an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil" (3:9).
- The Lord likes that, and gives Solomon "a wise and discerning mind" (or, as the KJV says, "a wise and understanding heart") like nobody's before or after him (3:12).
- He also throws in riches, honor, and long life—so long as Solomon obeys his commandments. Why not?
- Solomon wakes up a whole lot smarter after that, and returns home to Jerusalem.
- As he holds a feast for his servants, two prostitutes come before him seeking his judgment.
- One of them (harlot #1) explains that they live together in the same house—just the two of them—and both have recently had babies.
- Unfortunately (says harlot #1), harlot #2 accidentally smothered her baby in bed one night. Then she came over while harlot #1 was sleeping with her baby, and she switched her dead baby for harlot #1's living baby.
- When harlot #1 woke up, she realized that it was the wrong baby.
- But harlot #2 insists that it's a lie, and that the live baby is hers.
- They argue in front of Solomon until he observes that it's just one woman's word against the other's. Then he says, "Anybody got a sword? I guess we should just cut the baby in two and give each of you half."
- One of the harlots (we're not sure which) is like, "Hmm… Yeah, seems fair."
- But the other one says, "Please, my lord, give her the living boy; certainly do not kill him" (3:26).
- This lady is obviously going to be a better mom, whether she gave birth to the kid or not, so Solomon declares her the mother and gives her the baby.
- This story goes viral in Israel, and everyone in Israel marvels at how royally sagacious Solomon is.
Lifestyles Of The Rich And Brilliant
- Like any obscenely rich dude, Solomon's got a great posse: Princes, priests, soldiers, scribes, officers, and friends. They all get shout-outs in 4:2-19.
- At this time, Israel is livin' large. Its territory is huge (stretching from the Euphrates river across Philistine country and all the way to Egypt), it's politically strong, and its people are numerous, wealthy, and secure. Life is good.
- All the little kingdoms under Solomon's rule give him tribute, continually increasing his wealth for as long as he lives.
- And that's good, because being the king of the world ain't cheap. He's got a lot of mouths to feed, and they consume prodigious amounts of food.
- In addition to his servants, officers, family, soldiers, and so on, he's also got an insane numbers of animals to take care of.
- But we're talkin' about the Warren Buffet of the Hebrew Bible (a.k.a. Old Testament), and he makes sure nobody in his household ever wants for anything.
- Yet even with all his riches, he doesn't neglect his education. God gives Solomon "very great wisdom, discernment, and breadth of understanding […] so that […] he was wiser than anyone else" in the known world (4:29-31).
- He wrote a ton of proverbs and songs, and his fame spread across oceans and continents.
- People from all nations, even kings and rulers, came to Israel to learn from good Professor Solomon.
Solomon & Hiram Temple Construction Co., Ltd.
- Hiram, the king of Tyre and a good friend of David's, sends his servants to congratulate Solomon on his new gig as king.
- Solomon responds with a big idea: "My dad wasn't able to build a temple to God because he was busy fighting enemies on all sides his whole life. But the Lord told him that I would build it, and since Israel's at peace, I think I'll get started. Since you guys are the best lumberjacks, what say you provide the cedar lumber we need?"
- Hiram thinks that's a great idea, so he provides cedar and fir lumber in exchange for tons of wheat and oil. Thus, a great timber partnership is born. And there is much rejoicing.
- As temple construction ramps up, Solomon conscripts thousands of forced laborers to harvest and cut timber and quarry and cut stone. He's not messin' around.
How To Build A Temple
- In the fourth year of his reign, in the month of Ziv (a.k.a. May), ground is broken on the temple.
- 6:2-10 and 15-36 give the specs (hop on over to "Best of the Web" for more on this), in case you want to build Solomon's Temple in your backyard.
- During construction, "the word of the Lord came to Solomon" (6:11), promising him that so long as he keeps God's statutes and obeys his commandments, God will dwell with Israel (in the temple) and won't forsake them. Sounds good, God.
- After 7 years, the temple is finally built.
How To Build A Palace
- Solomon's palace and other royal digs take 13 years to build. They're super fancy, and a lot bigger than the temple. Just sayin' (7:1-12).
- But the temple's not quite finished yet. It still needs some finishing touches, so Solomon brings Hiram from Tyre.
- No, not the king. This is a different Hiram, who's a really great bronze worker.
- Hiram makes about a million bronze things for the temple: two big "pillars [with] nets of chequer-work with wreaths of chain-work [and] lattice-work" (7:15-20); 400 bronze pomegranates (7:42); a huge, ten-cubit-in-diameter "cast sea", or big basin of water, which rested on 12 bronze oxen facing outward (7:23-25); 10 "stands" of bronze carved with lions, oxen, and cherubim (7:27-29); 10 smaller basins (7:38); and some pots and shovels (7:40).
- Woah. That's a lot of bronze stuff.
- Solomon doesn't stop with the bronze, though. He also has tons of gold stuff made: an altar, a table for ceremonial bread, lampstands, flowers, lamps, tongs, cups, candlesnuffers, basins, incense dishes, and the doors to the most holy place in the temple (7:48-50).
- Finally, everything's done and the temple is ready. Solomon puts a bunch of treasure that David collected inside it. Treasure, treasure everywhere.
The Hottest Ticket In Town: Temple Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony
- With everything in place at the temple, it's ready to become the home of the Ark of the Covenant, which holds the two stone tablets upon which the Ten Commandments are written.
- Solomon holds a feast for all the Israelites at the temple in celebration of its completion. There are so many people there, they don't even try to count them.
- The festival lasts seven days, and people from far and wide—from Lebo-hamath to Egypt— participate.
- To kick off the dedication ceremony, the elders and priests carry the Ark into the most holy place of the temple.
- When they come back out, "a cloud filled the house of the Lord […] for the glory of the Lord filled [his] house" (8:10-11).
- Solomon speaks to God, presenting the temple to him: "I have built you an exalted house, a place for you to dwell in for ever" (8:13).
- He turns to face the gathered Israelites, who all stand.
- Solomon gives a short speech, saying (basically):
- "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who has kept the promise he made to my father David (8:15). He wanted to build a house for God, but God told him, 'Although that's a good desire, it won't be you that builds me a house, but rather your son' (8:17-19). And the Lord has kept that promise today. Now that I sit on the throne of Israel, I built this house in God's name as a place for the Ark, which contains the covenant that he made with our ancestors when he brought them out of Egypt" (8:20-21).
- Solomon then goes and kneels at the altar of the temple, spreads his hands to heaven, and offers a prayer (hang onto your hats—it's a long one):
- "O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath" (8:23). He goes on to praise God's faithfulness, and to ask him to keep his promise that David's successors will always be king as long as they mind their Ps and Qs (8:23-26).
- Then Solomon asks, "But will God indeed dwell on earth? Even the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built!" (8:27).
- He continues, "Please hear our prayers concerning this house, and forgive our sins, but condemn any who come to this altar unworthily (8:28-32)"
- "When we're defeated in battle because we've turned away from you, but then we pray to you again in this place, please forgive us and help us defend our land" (8:33-34).
- "When we cause you to stop the rain because of our sins, but then pray to you in this place once again, please forgive us and send rain again" (8:35-36).
- "If a famine, blight, mildew, locusts, or caterpillars destroy our crops; or if we're suffering from sickness or plagues; or if our enemies attack our cities; or if anything bad happens to us, please hear the prayers that we send from this temple" (8:37-38).
- "You know every human heart, so you know when to forgive, and when to help. And may we and our children always fear and honor you" (8:39-40).
- "And when those who aren't part of Israel, but who hear about your power and come from a distant land to this place to pray to you, please answer their prayer, too, so the whole world can know that this is your house" (8:41-43).
- "And help us when we go to war against our enemies, if we pray towards this house" (8:44).
- "And if we sin against you—because we know everyone sins—and we're taken away captive to a faraway land, but then pray toward this temple for forgiveness, please cause our captives to treat us kindly" (8:46-50).
- "Please open your eyes and ears to our pleas, because we are your chosen people" (8:51-53).
- And that's the end of the prayer.
- When Solomon's done, he gets up and gives another speech to Israel.
- He praises God, and prays again that Israel will follow his rules so he will always help them to prosper, and so that all the peoples of the earth will know that "the Lord is God; there is no other" (8:55-60).
- Finally, he concludes: "Therefore, devote yourselves completely to the Lord our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments" (8:61).
- To finish things off, Solomon sacrifices 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep to the Lord.
- After all's said and done, they've dedicated the temple, and the court where it stood, and the surrounding altars and stuff, too.
- Everyone goes home on the 8th day, "joyful and in good spirits because of the goodness that the Lord had shown to his servant David and to his people Israel" (8:66). It's just a guess, but they might've been pretty stoked to get a break from listening to Solomon talk, too.
God Accepts Solomon's Temple (With One Or Two Conditions)
- Some time after the temple dedication, the Lord appears to Solomon again, like he had before at Gibeon.
- He says, "I have heard your prayer [… and] I have consecrated this house that you have built, and put my name there fore ever" (9:3).
- He tells Solomon that if he'll be as faithful as David was, God will make sure that Solomon's descendants keep the throne. But if he—or his children—step out of line, Israel and the temple will both fall.
- It will be so bad, he says, that people passing by the ruined temple will be like, "Holy cow. Why would the Lord let this happen to his temple and his chosen people? Oh, probably because Israel didn't worship him" (9:8-9).
- And that was that.
- When things finally settle down after the festival, Solomon gives King Hiram of Tyre twenty cities in Galilee as payment for supplying all the gold and cedar and cypress.
- But Hiram wasn't crazy about the cities, and he's like, "Whoa, my brother. What's with these cities? Can't you do any better than that?"
- But then he lets it go, apparently, and actually gives Solomon a bunch more gold.
- While Solomon has all of these conscripted laborers, he also builds other stuff, like the wall of Jerusalem, and fortifies lots of other cities, like Gezer, which Pharaoh had captured and given to his daughter, Solomon's wife, as a present. Thanks, Daddy.
- This is a pretty rough time to be a Canaanite in Israel. Whereas the Israelites get to be soldiers, government officials, etc., the Canaanites get to be slaves. Bummer.
- Solomon, meanwhile, just keeps doing his righteous king thing. He offers burnt sacrifices and burns incense at the temple, builds up a navy with some help from Hiram's experienced sailors, and keeps raking in boatloads of gold from tributaries.
The Queen Of Sheba Visits Solomon, And Yes—She's Impressed
- Solomon's fame spreads until the Queen of Sheba hears about him. She's so intrigued that she comes to Israel to test his wisdom with some tough questions.
- She shows up in Jerusalem with a huge entourage and camels bearing gold and spices and jewels to give to Solomon.
- They sit down for a nice long chat, and she asks him everything that's on her mind. He answers all of her questions, and "there was nothing […] that he could not explain to her" (10:3).
- Needless to say, her mind is blown, and not just because he's so wise. She's also pretty impressed with his house, his food, his clothes, his servants, his officials, and his religious observance.
- She's so impressed, in fact, that "there was no more spirit in her" (10:5).
- Whoa, he kills her?
- No, no, no. Sit down. She's fine. She's totally overcome, is all, and says, "I didn't believe what they told me about your accomplishments and wisdom, but they didn't even tell the half of it" (10:6-7).
- "Your wives are so lucky! And your servants, too. And all because of your God. Bless his name" (10:8-9).
- Then she gives him a ton of gold and jewels, and more spices than anyone had ever given before or ever would give again.
- Oh, and by the way, Hiram's fleet is still bringing gold, precious stones, and super-rare almug wood this whole time, too.
- Anyway, Solomon is a great host to Sheba. He gives her everything she asks for from his abundant riches before she returns to her own land with her peeps.
- But let's get back to how stinkin' rich Solomon is. In one year, he received 666 (Whaaa?) talents of gold, not including taxes and stuff from traders, merchants, the kings of Arabia, and the governors of the land.
- (We calculate that 666 talents of gold is worth about $1,114,524,360 in 2013. That's 1.1 billion dollars. Not bad, Solomon.)
- With all that gold, he made 500 shields and put them in the House of the Forest of Lebanon.
- He also made a great gold-overlaid ivory throne with two lions standing on each side of the armrests and one lion on each side of the 6 steps leading up to the throne. This thing was off the hook.
- Since he's basically surrounded by opulence, it comes as no surprise that all of his drinking vessels are pure gold, too. Silver? No way. That's for chumps. Any bum can afford silver during the Solomon administration.
- Every three years Solomon's fleets (along with Hiram's ships) come back from Tharshish full of gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks.
- Solomon is king of the world, the top dog in both riches and wisdom. Everyone is dying to hear his thoughts all the time, and he is constantly sent gifts of gold, silver, clothes, weapons, spices, horses, mules, and much, much more.
- Solomon amasses 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horses, which he stations strategically throughout Israel.
- Solomon's traders do a ton of business with Egypt, trading horses and chariots for silver and turning around to sell them to the Hittites and the kings of Aram (or Syria in the KJV).
- Life is good.
1000 Weddings And A Funeral
- But after all that wisdom and all those riches, Solomon drops the ball and breaks God's commandments. Tsk, tsk.
- See God commanded Solomon not to marry foreign women, because he knew they'd turn him to idolatry. But Solomon can't resist. He just loves those exotic Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites.
- In fact, Solomon loves them so much that he accumulates at least 700 princess-wives and 300 concubines.
- As he gets older, Solomon's wives turn his heart away from God and toward their gods, like Astarte (the goddess of the Sidonians) and Milcom (the abomination of the Ammonites).
- Solomon builds a temple for Chemosh, a Moabite god, and Molech, an Ammonite god, and for all of the other gods his wives worship. Bad move, Solomon.
- Needless to say, God's pretty mad. He tells Solomon that he is going to lose his kingdom because of this betrayal.
- For his father David's sake though, God will wait until Solomon's dead to take the kingdom from him. He'll let his son keep one tribe. It's a pretty decent move on God's part.
- The stage needs to be set for the fall of Solomon's government, so God raises up a few enemies.
- First there's Hadad the Edomite.
- Years earlier, when Hadad was a young boy, David conquered Edom. Joab, his commander, killed every male. But Hadad escaped with some of his father's servants, and hid out in Egypt. There, the Pharaoh gave him a place to live. These two became such good pals that Pharaoh gave Hadad his sister-in-law as a wife. Hadad lived with Pharaoh until he heard that David and Joab were dead. Pharaoh didn't want him to leave, but Hadad really wanted to go home, so he did and became Solomon's rival.
- Next God raises up Rezon, a former leader of a band of marauders who became king of Damascus.
- And then God raises up Solomon's main adversary: Jeroboam.
- Jeroboam was the son of one of Solomon's servants. A talented and energetic worker, Solomon put Jeroboam in charge of repairing the walls of Jerusalem.
- One day Jeroboam was outside the walls and wearing some new clothes when he bumped into a prophet named Ahijah out in a field. Ahijah grabbed Jeroboam's garment and ripped it into twelve pieces, saying (more or less): "Take ten pieces to represent the ten tribes that God has promised to take from Solomon (or, more specifically, Solomon's son) and give to you, because Solomon forsook God and worshipped Astarte, Chemosh, and Milcom. Solomon's son will keep one tribe so David's line will continue in Jerusalem."
- Solomon hears about this whole exchange, so he wants to kill Jeroboam, but Jeroboam is smart and has already fled to Egypt, where he remains until Solomon dies.
- After 40 years of reign, Solomon dies and is buried in the City of David, and his son Rehoboam reigns in his place.
- Rehoboam (we'll call him Ray for short) goes to Shechem to be crowned king of all Israel.
- Jeroboam (we'll call him Jerry), who's still hiding in Egypt, hears that Solomon is dead, which means it's time for him to take over ten of the tribes of Israel.
- Jerry gathers supporters and appears before Ray. He tells him, "Your father was a pretty oppressive ruler. Do us a favor: don't be like that, and we'll serve you, no problem."
- Ray says, "Lemme think about it for a few days."
- He counsels with the old men who counseled his father, and they suggest that he be kind and just toward his people.
- But Ray doesn't like the sound of that. He asks some of his younger counselors what to do, and they're like, "Tell them that you're a bigger man than your dad was, and you'll oppress them even worse than he did. He afflicted them with whips? You'll use—picture this—scorpions."
- Ray thinks this sounds pretty cool, so he goes ahead and tells the people about it.
- Remember God's plan for Ray to lose most of the kingdom? Yeah—this is all part of it.
- The Israelites don't like the plan one bit, so everyone but the tribe of Judah rebels against Ray.
- But Ray's thinking, "Well, you still have to pay your taxes," so he sends a servant to collect his treasure, as usual.
- The people stone him to death. That's when Ray realizes this is serious, and he flees to Jerusalem for protection.
- The other tribes hear that Jerry's back in town, and they make him their king.
- Ray isn't gonna stand for this, so he gathers an army of 180,000 warriors to fight against Jerry's tribes.
- But there is this prophet named Shemaiah, and the Lord told Ray through him not to attack the other tribes because this is the way it's meant to be. Ray's like, "Fine."
- So now there are 2 kings and 2 kingdoms: Rehoboam over Judah and Jeroboam over Israel.
- But Jerry has a problem: Ray still controls Jerusalem, which means he controls the temple. So anytime anyone wants to worship, they have to go to Jerusalem.
- With Ray in control of the people's spiritual lives, he could potentially gain their favor back, and then they'd kill Jerry. Jerry doesn't want this to happen, so he comes up with a plan.
- He makes two golden calves and puts one in Bethel and the other in Dan, both far from Jerusalem. He then makes some guys priests and builds some temples of his own.
- He tells the people that these were the gods that brought them out of Egypt, and they totally buy it. He institutes some feasts, makes some sacrifices, and voila: Problem-o solved.
Are You Lion To Me?
- One day Jerry is burning incense by his new altar in Bethel. A man of God who has come from Judah walks up and starts talking to the altar.
- He says, "Hey altar. A kid named Josiah's going to be born into David's house, and he'll sacrifice humans on top of you and burn their bones" (this really happens later in 2 Kings 23:16-20).
- "And," he says, "this altar's going to break, and the ashes will spill out. That's how you'll know I'm for real."
- Jerry gets mad that this guy's prophesying bad stuff about his altar, and he grabs him. But when he touches him, Jerry's hand shrivels up.
- Then the altar breaks and the ashes pour out. Uh-oh.
- Jerry's not so high-and-mighty anymore, and he asks the man of God to pray for his hand to be restored. He does, and his hand goes back to normal.
- Jerry invites the man of God to come to his house to freshen up and collect a reward, but he says no way—not even if he offered him half of his kingdom, buster.
- "The Lord told me not to eat or drink anything around here, and just to go straight home when I was done talking to your altar," he says. And that's what he does.
- But there is this old prophet living in Bethel, and his sons tell him about what the man of God had said and done. He asks his sons which way the man went, and they tell him.
- The old prophet climbs on his donkey and rides off toward Judah.
- He finds the man of God sitting under an oak tree, and invites him to come eat with him at his home.
- The man of God's like, "No can do. The Lord said so."
- "But I'm a prophet," says the prophet. "It's cool." So the man of God goes with him to his house for some food and drink.
- But while they're eating, the word of God comes to the man of God (say that five times fast), who says, "You disobeyed God by coming here, and now you're going to die before you return home."
- Sure enough, the man of God leaves and gets killed by a lion, who stands guard by his body.
- The prophet hears about this and goes to collect the body. He buries him in his own grave and mourns over him and the sad prophesy that he uttered to Jerry.
- Despite this little episode, though, Jerry still does evil in God's eyes by setting up false priests and worshipping idols.
Ahijah Prophecies, Abijah Dies
- Jerry has a son named Abijah (not to be confused with Ahijah) who gets really sick.
- Jerry says to his wife, "Disguise yourself and go to Ahijah the prophet and give him some gifts and find out what's going to happen to our son, only don't let him know you're my wife."
- So she goes in disguise to visit Abijah. It turns out he's old and blind, but the Lord tells him that Jerry's wife's going to come ask about her son, so he knows it's her when she shows up.
- He tells her that because Jerry worshipped idols after God gave him the kingdom, he will take away all of Jerry's descendants. Dogs will eat those of his family who die in the city, and birds will eat those who die in the field.
- Their son will die as soon as Jerry's wife's feet enter into the city, because God will take away everything good in his house, and raise up a new king instead.
- Oh—and God will also smite and scatter Israel because of Jerry's wickedness and that of Israel.
- Jerry's wife goes home, and as soon as her foot touches the threshold of her house, Abijah dies. That's a bummer.
- All told, Jeroboam reigns for twenty two years, and then he dies and his son Nadab becomes king.
- Meanwhile, back in Judah, Ray is made king when he's fourty one years old, and he presides over seventeen years of wickedness in Jerusalem.
- The people are worshipping idols and building pagan temples, and there are all these ritualistic temple prostitutes running around everywhere. God's not happy.
- And during the fifth year of Ray's reign, King Shishak of Egypt comes and plunders Jerusalem's treasures. He sacks the temple and Ray's palace, and steals all of the gold shields Solomon has made. Now Ray has to use bronze shields.
- And despite what God said back in chapter 12 about not fighting, Jerry and Ray fight constantly throughout their reigns.
- Finally, Ray dies and is buried, and his son Abijam (not to be confused with Abijah) rules in his place.
Abijam To Jehosaphat (Gesundheit)
- Abijam is a sinful king just like his dad. Still, because his great-grandpa David was so righteous (except for that whole Uriah the Hittite thing), the Lord preserves his lineage.
- The war between Israel and Judah continues throughout Abijam's life, and then he dies.
- His son Asa becomes king, and he is actually a good guy. He takes away all of the idols and temple prostitutes, and even takes away his mom's (or grandma's?) crown because she is an idol-worshipper. Way to clean house, Asa.
- He doesn't go so far as to tear town the pagan temples, but he still manages to remain pure of heart for all his days, and fills the temple with lots of gold and silver and other treasures.
- (Note: For some reason, verses 16-24 occur chronologically after verses 25-33. We'll go ahead and tell them in order.)
- When Jerry's son Nadab becomes king, he's evil just like his dad.
- He goes to war against a city called Gibbethon, and during the siege a guy named Baasha—who's a son of Ahijah—kills Nadab.
- So now Baasha is king, and he kills the whole house of Jeroboam, just like Ahijah prophesied would happen (back in chapter 14) because of Jerry's wickedness.
- Now Baasha and Asa are at war. Baasha takes over a city called Ramah and builds a fortification there to block the road into Jerusalem.
- So Asa sends all of the treasures in his house to Ben-hadad, the king of Syria, and asks him to assist in the war against Israel. Ben-hadad agrees and sends his armies against the cities of Israel.
- Baasha withdraws from Ramah and Asa dismantles it stone-by-stone and timber-by-timber. He uses these materials to build new cities.
- Asa gets old, and his feet get diseased. Then he dies, and his son Jehosaphat assumes the throne.
Kings Behaving Badly
- A guy named Jehu prophesies that because Baasha's being just as bad as his dad was, his posterity is going to die and get eaten by dogs and birds.
- Sure enough, after Baasha dies and his son Elah takes over, one of Elah's captains, Zimri, kills him when he's drunk in a city called Tirzah.
- Then Zimri kills all of the males in Elah's family. He even kills all of his friends. Harsh, dude.
- Zimri acts as king for seven days in Tirzah, but when word of what he's done reaches the people, they make Omri, the captain of the host, their king.
- Omri leads his armies against Zimri in Tirzah, and when Zimri sees that he's lost the battle, he sets the palace on fire and burns himself to death inside.
- But not everyone wants Omri to be king, and a division arises, with half of the people following Omri and half following a guy named Tibni.
- But Tibni loses, so Omri's king after all.
- During his reign, Omri buys a hill and builds a city there called Samaria.
- Omri is more evil than anyone that came before him, and when he dies his son Ahab becomes king.
- And Ahab is even worse than his dad. Uh-oh.
- Ahab marries Jezebel, an idolatrous Sidonian princess, and he worships Baal, building altars and monuments dedicated to him.
- There's this Tishbite named Elijah. He says to Ahab, "In the name of God, it's not gonna rain 'til I tell it to."
- The Lord tells Elijah to go hide by a stream, and ravens will feed him.
- He does, and they do. He gets bread and meat morning and evening from the ravens, and drinks water from the stream.
- But then it dries up (because it's not raining anymore), so the Lord tells him to go live in Zarephath. A widow there will take care of him.
- Elijah goes, and sure enough when he gets there there's a widow gathering sticks for a fire.
- He asks her to get him a drink of water and some bread, but she tells him that she's about to use the last of her meal and oil to make one final meal for her and her son before they starve to death.
- But Elijah tells her, "Don't worry. Feed me first, and God won't let your food run out until the rains come again."
- She believes Elijah, feeds him first, and—as promised—their food doesn't run out.
- Despite this, though, the widow's son gets really sick and dies.
- The woman wonders if God sent Elijah to kill her son as punishment for some sin she's committed.
- But Elijah takes the son and carries him upstairs, and prays for God to restore the boy's soul to him.
- And God does, and now the woman knows that Elijah is a man of God who speaks the truth.
My God Can Beat Up Your God
- After three years of drought, the Lord tells Elijah it's time to confront Ahab and make it rain.
- Meanwhile, Ahab's getting pretty desperate to find some water. He calls a guy named Obadiah, the governor of his house.
- Obadiah's a really good guy. He hid one hundred prophets in a cave when Jezebel was hunting down and killing all the prophets.
- Ahab sends Obadiah to look for a place with some living grass for their horses and mules.
- To Obadiah's surprise, he bumps into Elijah while looking.
- Elijah tells Obadiah to go tell Ahab he's there, but Obadiah's like, "Are you kidding me? He's been looking all over for you, and as soon as I tell him where you are, the Lord's Spirit will carry you away somewhere, and he'll kill me."
- But Elijah promises to stay put, so Obadiah tells Ahab, and he comes running.
- "Are you the guy giving us all this trouble?" he asks.
- Elijah answers, "You're the one who brought trouble when you forsook God's commandments and worshipped Baal, fool. So here's what we're gonna do: Gather all of Israel to mount Carmel, and make sure those 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 that eat at Jezebel's table come, too."
- Everyone gathers on mount Carmel, and Elijah says, "Why don't you people make up your minds? If the Lord is God, follow him. If it's Baal, follow him."
- The people say nothing.
- So then Elijah says, "Look, there are 450 prophets for Baal, and there's just me for the Lord. Let's have a little contest. You guys take a bull and put it on a pile of wood. I'll do the same. We both pray to our gods, and whichever god sends fire to burn the bull is the real deal."
- This sounds good to the people, so they set to it.
- The priests of Baal call to their god from morning until noon, but nothing happens.
- Elijah's all like, "Louder, boys! He's probably just meditating, or he's out of the office, or maybe he's asleep, that's all."
- The priests go totally nuts, screaming super loudly and cutting themselves, as was customary. They get super bloody and gross, but still nothing happens.
- Finally, the priests give up and Elijah says, "All right everybody, check this out."
- He takes twelve stones (one for each tribe of Israel) and fixes up the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down. He puts wood on top of it, cuts up the bull and lays it on top of the wood, and digs a trench around the altar.
- Then he tells the people to dump four barrels of water all over the altar not once, not twice, but three times.
- The meat and wood are soaked and the trench is filled with water when they're through.
- When evening comes, Elijah prays to God and says, "Let everyone know today that you are God in Israel, and that I'm your servant."
- And the fire of God falls down and eats up the bull, the wood, the stones, and all the water in the trench.
- The people fall down to the ground saying "The Lord is God. The Lord is God."
- Elijah's like, "Yup. Seize the prophets of Baal."
- And he brings them down by the brook Kishon and kills all 850 of them.
- Elijah tells Ahab to head home and eat and drink up, because it looks like rain.
- So Ahab heads toward his house, and Elijah goes to the top of mount Carmel and prays.
- He tells his servant who's with him to go look toward the sea. He does, but doesn't see anything.
- Elijah tells him to look seven more times, and finally on the seventh time the servant sees a little cloud rising out over the sea as small as a man's hand.
- The sky turns black with clouds, and a huge rainstorm bursts over the land.
- Elijah hightails it to the city of Jezreel, getting there just before Ahab does.
Earth, Wind, And Fire
- When Ahab tells Jezebel about Elijah killing all of her prophets, she's not happy.
- She sends a message to Elijah: "Let the gods kill me if I fail to do to you what you did to my prophets by this time tomorrow."
- So Elijah goes into hiding in the wilderness.
- He sits down under a tree and tells the Lord that he thinks it's about time he died.
- He falls asleep, but an angel wakes him up and tells him to eat. Elijah finds a cake and some water next to him, and he eats and drinks before he falls asleep again.
- The angel comes to wake him a second time, and tells him, "You'd better eat up, or you won't have the energy to make the journey you're about to go on."
- Elijah wakes up and eats again. He then heads off to Horeb, a.k.a. Sinai, the mountain of God.
- He doesn't eat anything for fourty days and fourty nights during his journey.
- Finally, he arrives at Horeb. He finds a cave and sleeps.
- In the cave, the Lord's voice comes to him and asks, "Whatcha doin', Elijah?"
- Elijah explains, "Well, I've been really loyal to you, Lord. But the Israelites are breaking your covenants and tearing down your altars and killing your prophets. I'm the only one left and now they're trying to kill me, so I'm hiding out here."
- The Lord tells Elijah to go stand on the mountain, because the Lord is going to be there.
- Before he has the chance to go out, a furious wind passes by the cave and tears up the rocks on the mountain—but the Lord's not in the wind.
- Then an earthquake comes and shakes the cave—but the Lord's not in that either. Then a fire comes, but still no Lord.
- Finally, Elijah hears "a sound of sheer silence" (NRSV 19:12—or in the KJV, "a still small voice"). He wraps his face in his cloak and walks to the mouth of the cave.
- Again, he hears a voice ask, "Whatcha doin'?"
- Again he answers, using the exact same words as before.
- The Lord tells him to go back to the wilderness of Damascus. On his way, he should anoint Hazael as king of Syria, Jehu as king of Israel, and Elisha as the prophet that will take Elijah's place when he's gone.
- The Lord says that whomever escapes from Hazael's sword will be killed by Jehu, and whomever escapes from Jehu's sword will be killed by Elisha.
- He says there are still 7,000 people left in Israel that don't worship Baal.
- So Elijah goes back, and on his way he passes by Elisha's farm.
- Elisha's out plowing a field with twelve oxen, and Elijah puts his cloak on Elisha as he's walking by. Elisha understands this as a symbolic call to go away with Elijah and serve God.
- Elisha gets permission to have a little going away party, then follows Elijah from that day forward.
Ahab Defeats Ben-hadad, Then Gets Palsy-Walsy
- Despite the Lord's command that Elijah anoint Hazael to be king of Syria, for whatever reason Ben-hadad is still king for the time being. He's at war with Ahab.
- During a siege of Ahab's capital of Samaria, Ben-hadad sends a messenger to tell Ahab, "Here's what's up: All your silver and gold, and your prettiest wives and children are all mine now."
- Ahab, who's obviously losing, says, "Okay, you win." He probably expects Ben-hadad to make Ahab his vassal, but let him keep his family and treasure with the understanding that it all really belongs to Ben-hadad.
- But Ben-hadad's like, "No, I'm gonna send my people in there so they can take anything nice they see."
- So now Ahab gathers his elders, and says, "What's with Ben-hadad? I agreed to surrender, but now he literally wants all my stuff. What do I do?"
- His advisors are like, "Don't do it."
- So Ahab tells Ben-hadad he won't settle for worse than political subjugation.
- Ben-hadad is mad. He swears to take Ahab down.
- Ahab's like, "I'll believe it when I see it."
- So Ben-hadad commands his huge army to go against the city.
- An unknown prophet comes to Ahab and tells him that the Lord is going to help him win the battle so he'll know that he's God.
- How? The young nobles of Israel will follow Ahab into battle and defeat Ben-hadad.
- Ahab gathers 232 young men at the head of his army of 7,000 Israelites and attacks Ben-hadad and his generals as they're inebriating themselves under the war tents they've set up in the hills around Samaria.
- Ahab's army leaves no prisoners, and Ben-hadad barely escapes on horseback.
- The prophet warns Ahab that Ben-hadad will return next spring to attack once again, so he'd better strengthen his defenses.
- Ben-hadad's servants tell him that Israel must worship a hill god, and that's why they were so much stronger when they fought in the hills.
- They suggest that Ben-hadad fight Israel in the plains, where their god (they suppose) won't be able to help them.
- So that's what they do. That spring, a huge Syrian army goes out to meet the Israelite army in the plains.
- Once again, a man of God tells Ahab that the Lord will give him victory to prove that he is God—and not just of the hills.
- The Israelites kill 100,000 soldiers in a single day, and the Syrians flee to a city called Aphek.
- There, a wall falls down on 27,000 soldiers. Big wall.
- While Ben-hadad hides in the city, his advisors suggest that he surrender. They've heard that Israelite kings are merciful.
- So the advisors go and ask Ahab to spare Ben-hadad's life. Ahab says, "Of course! He's my bro. Bring him on over."
- So Ahab and Ben-hadad settle their differences, make some treaties, and part ways.
- The Lord wanted Ahab to kill Ben-hadad, though, so he sets up a little lesson for Ahab.
- A prophet disguises himself as a wounded soldier (he even gets someone to actually wound him, after some persuasion involving a killer lion) and covers his face with a bandage over his eyes.
- When Ahab comes, he tells him, "King, I was fighting in the battle, but then someone told me to guard a prisoner, and that if he got away, I'd have to pay a talent of silver or die. But I got distracted during the battle, and he got away. Can you help me out here?"
- But Ahab's like, "No way. You have to pay the price."
- And the prophet's like, "Ah-hah!" He takes the bandage off his eyes, and Ahab recognizes him. "You let Ben-hadad get away instead of taking care of him like the Lord wanted. Now the Lord will take your life in place of his."
- Ahab feels like a real dork, and goes home.
How To Steal A Vineyard
- A while later, there's a guy named Naboth. He has a really nice vineyard in Jezreel right next door to Ahab's palace.
- Ahab really wants to buy it from Naboth, but Naboth refuses, saying the Lord commanded him not to sell his property to Ahab.
- So Ahab's bummed, and he sort of throws a tantrum, flopping facedown on his bed and refusing to eat.
- Jezebel, like a good wife, knows how to cheer him up. She'll just kill Naboth.
- She falsely accuses him of blasphemy and arranges for witnesses to testify against him. Next thing ya know the people carry Naboth outside the city and stone him to death. Slow clap for Jezebel.
- Ahab obtains ownership of the vineyard, and now everybody's happy. Everybody except for God, that is.
- He sends Elijah to tell Ahab as he's relaxing in his new vineyard that dogs will lick up Ahab's blood in the same place they licked up Naboth's.
- Ahab's like, "Elijah, my old enemy, how'd you find me?"
- Elijah tells him, "You can't hide from the Lord, man. He's going to bring evil to your life and take away your posterity, just like he did to Jeroboam and Baasha, because you've sinned and made Israel sin. There hasn't been anyone as wicked as you've been. Jezebel tempted you to worship idols, and now you're gonna be sorry. Oh—and by the way—dogs are also going to eat your wife by the wall of the city."
- This scares Ahab so badly that he actually straightens up a bit. He lives in mourning and fasting, and humbles himself before God.
- Because of this, God decides that he won't destroy his household until after he's dead. God's really into the posthumous family destruction in 1st Kings.
Ahab Wants Yes-Men
- Israel enjoys three brief years of peace before Jehosaphat, king of Judah, comes to visit Ahab.
- While he's there, Ahab makes him a proposition: "Syria has conquered a city called Ramoth-gilead that rightly belongs to Israel. How about helping us take it back?"
- Jehosaphat agrees, saying, "Mis horses are sus horses, amigo. But let's ask the Lord what he thinks first."
- So Ahab gathers about 400 prophets together and asks, "Should we battle against Syria?"
- They say, "For sure! The Lord will give you success."
- But Jehosaphat's like, "Are these all of the prophets you've got?" Ahab admits that there's this one other guy, Micaiah, but Ahab hates him because he only ever prophesies bad stuff about him. But Jehosaphat's like, "Oh, come on. Let's see what he says," so Ahab sends a messenger to get him.
- Meanwhile, all the other prophets are saying that Ahab and Jehosaphat are just going to pummel Syria at Ramoth-gilead.
- The messenger arrives at Micaiah's house and tells him, "Look, all the other prophets are giving the green light, so it'd be great if you could just go along with things this time."
- But Micaiah says he'll be saying whatever the Lord tells him to say, thankyouverymuch, no matter what.
- Still, when Michaiah gets to the palace and Ahab asks for his opinion, he sarcastically says, "Hey, why not? Go for it. You've got it in the bag."
- Ahab angrily demands that he give him a serious answer, and Micaiah says, "I saw a vision of your armies scattered like sheep with no shepherd."
- But Ahab just says, "See, Jehosaphat? I told you he only ever prophesies bad stuff about me. Forget him."
- Micaiah continues, "The Lord wants you to go to battle. He's put a lying spirit in all of those other prophets so they'd convince you."
- But one of the prophets, Zedekiah, smacks Micaiah in the face and says, "You're the one with the lying spirit."
- Ahab condemns Micaiah to prison until he returns victorious from battle.
- Micaiah tells him, "If you come back from this battle, then I'm not a prophet." (Which was sort of a nifty way to prophesy, since no matter what happened, he was right.)
- But Ahab and Jehosaphat don't listen, and they head off to battle in Ramoth-gilead.
- Ahab decides to disguise himself as a normal soldier.
- Unbeknownst to him, the king of Syria has commanded his thirty-two chariot captains not to waste their time with regular soldiers, and to only go against the king of Israel himself.
- So they see Jehosaphat in his kingly armor and start to chase him, thinking he's Ahab. Luckily, they figure out that they're after the wrong guy and leave him alone.
- But Ahab gets hit by an arrow as he's driving his chariot during the battle.
- He tells his servant to carry him from the field, but the battle is too hectic, and he's not able to make it to safety.
- He bleeds to death all over his chariot, and the campaign is called off.
- He's brought back to Samaria, where dogs lick up his blood as they wash it from his chariot and his armor, and prostitutes wash in the same water.
- So Ahab's son Ahaziah becomes king.
- During Jehosaphat's reign in Judah, the people continue worshipping idols, though not as much as before. Despite this, Jehosaphat himself is a pretty good guy.
- He makes peace with Israel and gets rid of the temple prostitutes, which is great.
- He dies, and his son Jehoram takes his place.
- Ahaziah is evil, like his parents, and worships Baal.