Date: Sixth Century B.C.
After the death of David, his son Solomon ruled the still-united kingdom. His was a marvelous reign, and the nation prospered as never before or since. He built a magnificent temple for worshipping God, established a sound economy, expanded foreign trade, modernized the army, and built a series of fortifications for defense. Great as all this was, however, there were also problems. Solomon spent more than he took in, angered the various regions of his country, increased taxes to the breaking point, and took himself too seriously as a leader. So the good and the bad more or less balanced each other out, and as long as Solomon was around things went well. With his death, as is often the case with strong personalities, it all fell apart.
Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, was not able to keep the kingdom together. Following some bad advice, he took a hard line with his critics and the nation split in two, along regional lines. The North became Israel, led by a man named Jeroboam, and the South was called Judah, led by Rehoboam.
Here we read of the various fortunes of the rulers of each kingdom down to the end of each. The northern kingdom was characterized by instability and bloodshed, but was visited by prophets from God, like Elijah and Elisha. Few of its rulers were very spiritual people, and the best remembered are its worst representatives, Jezebel and Ahab.
The southern kingdom had good and bad rulers, with periodic revivals taking place, notably under Hezekiah and Josiah. Prophets of great stature were sent to Judah, too, men like Isaiah and Micah.
Theological Themes for the Books of I and II Kings
The theological principles found in these books are similar to those found in the books of Samuel. The control of God is emphasized. In the midst of the chaos of human history, God reigns supreme. God’s rule is based on moral absolutes. When the Ten Commandments were given, they were not to be seen simply as good advice, but rather as rules to live by. Any person or nation that disregards them does so at their peril. To stand by idly when abuse of the poor, the innocent, or the helpless is taking place is to invite the judgment of God. The nations of Israel and Judah are testimony to this dread but solemn fact.
Another emphasis here is God’s care for his people. Time after time, God sent prophets to plead with them to return to his ways. A refrain often heard was God’s cry, “For why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 18:31; 33:11). The tragedy was that it did not have to happen. Sin had come between God’s people and God, but that did not cancel out God’s love. To choose sin, however, was to choose death instead of life. Another fact that stands out is the value of ordinary life. Throughout the centuries of Israel’s and Judah’s rise and fall, life went on with God at work in it. The people’s biggest task, and ours, was just to live each day as it came, making the most of things, whether good or bad.
Outline for the Book of I Kings
- The death of David I KINGS 1:1-2:11
- The reign of Solomon I KINGS 2:12-11:43
- The early history of the divided kingdom, to Jehosaphat and Ahaziah I KINGS 12:1-22:53
Outline for the Book of II Kings
- The divided kingdom to the fall of Israel II Kings 1:1-2:11
- The history of Judah until its fall II Kings 18:1-25:21
- Judah under Gedaliah II Kings 25:22-30