This book is literally a listing of the various Kings of Israel. This is clearly a summary of events and many of the chapters end with a citation: For more information about King [whatever king this chapter discussed] see The Annals of the Kings of Judah, or The Annals of the Kings of Israel. These are apparently both lost books, with no known copies still in existence.
Anyway, at the start of this book, King David is old enough that it is time (again) for his sons to fight over the succession.
King David’s son Adonijah apparently decided that it was better to ask forgiveness than permission and went ahead and arranged his own coronation. (With Joab’s support, too!) With some prompting from his wife, Bath-sheba, King David immediately arranges for the officially recognized coronation of their son Solomon.
King David dies but not before reminding Solomon of all the betrayals he (David) suffered and all the people he (David) promised not to kill, but reminded Solomon that those promises would not bind him (Solomon). Thus there’s no surprise that Solomon starts off his reign with ordering a variety of deaths (chapter 2). After that, Solomon prays for the wisdom necessary to rule the land, which God grants (chapter 3).*
After some talk about how wise King Solomon now was, there’s a lot of description of the temple he has built to hold the Ark of the Covenant. It was built with much cedar wood (as a gift from King Hiram of Tyre) and gold and brass in a very specific design (chapters 5 thru 7) and then consecrated with much worship and sacrifice** (chapters 8 and 9).
Chapter 10 is about Solomon’s wealth and Chapter 11 is about his virility with his 700 wives and 300 concubines. However, it also talks about how he let some of those wives worship gods who were not the one God and thus he sinned started a pattern of sinful behavior in the line of kings. God decides that in punishment, Solomon’s son would only rule over only one of the tribes of Israel and be king in Jerusalem, while a man named Jeroboam would rule over the remaining ten tribes as king over Israel.
The next eleven chapters (chapters 12 thru 22) list the various kings who ruled and the ways in which they variously offended God and tried to kill one another.
Kings of all Israel:
- King David
- (King Adonijah, son of King David – had himself anointed king without his father’s blessings)
- King Solomon (son of King David) (sinful)
- King Rehoboam (son of King Solomon)*** remained king of the tribe of Judah
Kings of Judah:
- King Rehoboam (sinful)
- King Abijim (son of King Rehoboam) (sinful)
- King Asa (son of King Abijim) (faithful)
- King Jehoshaphat (son of King Asa) (faithful?)
- King Jehoram (son of King Jehoshaphat) (unstated)
Kings of Israel (minus Judah):
- King Jeroboam (sinful)****
- King Nadab (son of King Jeroboam) (sinful)
- King Baasha (having assassinated King Nadab) (sinful)
- King Elah (son of King Baasha) (unstated)
- King Zimri (having assassinated King Elah) (sinful)
- King Omri (having defeated General Tibni the other claimant after King Zimri’s suicide) (even more sinful than Jeroboam!)
- King Ahab (son of King Omri) (even more sinful than King Omri!)*****
- King Ahaziah (son of King Ahab) (sinful)
While there’s all sorts of civil unrest within each of Judah and Israel as well as between them, there’s also all sorts of conflict and temporary alliances with the various kings of Syria.
And thus we are through Kings 1 and thus on to Kings 2.
Summary: There have been a lot of kings of Israel and Judah and most of them have been sinful. Most of the sins, however, have had to do with allowing the worship of idols rather than regarding their tendencies towards killing one another.
Moral: There’s a lot of sinning going on here, but punishments for those sins is largely hit or miss.
* Chapter 3 contains the famous story of Solomon’s wisdom in which two mothers are claiming an infant child is theirs. King Solomon orders the baby to be cut in half so that they can each have half. The woman who protests that decision is identified as the actual mother. Given Solomon’s recent history, it’s no surprise that the two women involved absolutely believed that King Solomon would be more than willing to cut a baby in half.
** 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep and goats were sacrificed at the temple over the course of 14 days. This comes to a bit more than 7 animals killed every minute for 14 days. Oof.
*** The people of Israel asked King Rehoboam to be a kinder taskmaster than his father, to which he responded along the lines of: you only thought you had it bad under Solomon. I’ll work you to the bone and whip you till you bleed. They decided not to accept him as their king after all.
**** King Jeroboam didn’t want his people going to Jerusalem to worship since King Rehoboam remained king of Jerusalem even after Jeroboam took over the remaining ten tribes. Thus, Jeroboam made a bunch of local temples with local priests for his people to worship at and thus horribly offended God. For a while, Jeroboam is the benchmark for the sinfulness of all other kings.
***** King Ahab was so wicked that he gets chapters 17 thru 22 to recount some of his evil deeds which include marrying Jezebel and worshiping Baal. The prophet Elijah comes in here to, first, announce the coming of a drought and, second, to demonstrate the non-existence of Baal. He also arranges the slaughter all 450 of the prophets of Baal, who had been under Jezebel’s protection. Eventually, Ahab was so terrified of a prophesy Elijah made that he rent his clothing, fasted, and wore sackcloth, such that God decided to punish Ahab’s children instead of him.
Next up: Kings 2