The schemes and machinations of the royalty in 1st Kings rival any political drama on TV today. Assassinations? Check (see 2:24-25 for starters). Shifting alliances? You betcha (see 15:18-20). Rebellion? Oh yeah (check out 12:13-19). Sordid love affairs? Adonijah wishes (see 2:17), but sort of (see 11:1). One thing 1st Kings has that those ol' TV shows probably don't is the added nuance of religion and how it interacts with politics in a quasi-theocratic government.
In fact, it's sometimes hard to separate religion from politics in 1st Kings—no First Amendment here, that's for sure. If you're not practicing the current monarch's religion, you'd better hope for a miracle, because you're liable to get killed (see 18:40) or enslaved (see 9:20-21) before you can say "Free exercise."
When we talk about religion in 1st Kings, we have to talk specifically about ritual. Much of the religious activity here is directly connected to the customs, traditions, rites, and ceremonies of worship—whether of God or of some other deity. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the chapters focused on Solomon's Temple. In order for Solomon and his people to achieve the ultimate communion with the Lord, they have to build a place where special rituals can be performed. It's a classic "if you build it, he will come" situation.
And of course, anytime God has a bone to pick with Israel and its kings, he usually focuses not on their mental, emotional, or spiritual infidelities, but on their symbolic infidelity through ritualistic devotion to other gods—although the two are, admittedly, probably not too easy to separate (see 11:7-9). In 1st Kings, sacramental actions speak louder than pious words.
There are lots of sources of power in 1st Kings. Most of them can be found in either Solomon (wealth, wisdom, status, etc.) or Elijah (virtue, honor, spirituality, etc.), but other people—especially other kings and prophets—have them, too. No matter what sort of power it is, you can bet that God gave it, and he'll take it away if you don't keep on his good side (for an example see 9:6-7).
1st Kings drives home to the reader that the ultimate source of power is God. If a character possesses any power, it's really only as a conduit through which God is channeling his power. Thus, Solomon remains truly on top of the world only as long as he's faithful to God, and Elijah's titanic power (not that Titanic power) only grows as he obeys God and his angels (check out 2nd Kings 1:9-12).
Spirituality is strongly tied to personal contact with God, a.k.a. "theophany", in 1st Kings. The Lord manifests himself in a dream (3:5; 9:2), in a rush of smoke (8:10-12), as a voice (19:13), through ravens (17:6), through angels (19:5-7), through Elijah (17:10-24), through Solomon (10:1-9), in fire (18:38), and in silence (19:12). With the exception of the whole fire battle with Baal thing, he only comes to those who have proven their devotion to him. Often, he only comes when they're in the right place, like the temple (8:10-11), the wilderness (19:4-8), or a mountain (19:8-13). Location, location, location.
"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knoweth himself to be a fool." –Bill Shakespeare, As You Like It
Solomon's wisdom is, of course, legendary. You'll find plenty of ooh-ing and ahh-ing about it throughout the first 10 chapters of 1st Kings, and we have to admit: It sounds like the dude had quite the noggin. And yet it would be a mistake to see Solomon as a straightforward embodiment of pure, godly wisdom. The fact that he falls from grace in the end aside, there are still a few problems with Solomon's wisdom. For starters, is it okay for Solomon to pray for wisdom in the first place? Wasn't it Faust's quest for knowledge that doomed him? Could Solomon have fallen into a similar trap at some point? What good is all that wisdom if you ultimately lose your soul and hamstring your kingdom? Sounds more like wisdumb to us.