The two books of Kings and the second book of Chronicles tell the story of the monarchy, from David’s death to the Babylonian captivity. First Kings spans some 120 years. The first 40 of these saw the great era of Israel’s prosperity under the rule of David’s son, Solomon. After the death of Solomon the nation splits into two rival states, Israel and Judah. First Kings, and the parallel account in 2 Chronicles 1-20, records the glory, and tells the reasons for the tragic division. They also describe the spiritual direction taken by the two haves of the divided land.
The Chronicles. Chronicles provides a parallel account of the basic history given in the books of Kings. They are a divine commentary on the events that both report and often reflect a different perspective.
Dating. By the time of Solomon, we can speak with certainty about dates. Solomon rules a united Palestine between 970 and 930 B.C.
Outline. The book of 1 Kings falls naturally into two equal sections, paralleled by the 2 Chronicles account.
I. Solomon’s United Kingdom: 1 Kings 1-11, 2 Chronicles 1-9
II. The Divided Kingdom: 1 Kings 12-22, 2 Chronicles 11-20
Solomon. The dominant person in 1 Kings is Solomon. He shared his father’s genius for organization and went beyond him in diplomacy. Spiritually Solomon began in his father’s tradition with a true dedication to the Lord. But his later life she him fall away, led by his foreign wives to worship their gods and goddesses. Two OT books are ascribed too Solomon. The “Song of Songs” is a beautiful love story. The other, “Ecclesiates,” records Solomon’s inner struggle to find meaning in life apart from God. This most brilliant men can only conclude, “Emptiness. All is emptiness.” In spite of his wealth, power, and ability to satisfy his every desire, Solomon finds life without a vital relationship with God is meaningless.
1 Kings 1-11/2 Chronicles 1-9. Solomon and the United Kingdom
World Situation. During the nearly 8 decades David and Solomon reigned, the great world powers that normally dominated Palestine were in eclipse. Egypt of the south and the Hittite empire to the north had been seriously damaged by wars with the Sea Peoples, of whom the Philistines were a branch. Assyria was weak, and Babylon had not yet begun to expand toward empire. David left Solomon a strong, dominating military. Solomon never had to use his forces for war; no powers then existing could seriously harm him.
Solomon did know trade rivalries. But he also developed close ties with the Phoenicians of Tyre as trading partners, and built a network of treaties with the nations around him.
Archaeological discoveries. The OT pictures Israel during Solomon’s era as a vigorous, wealthy nation, aggressively pushing for new trade routes and engaging in a number of ambitious building projects. Archaeology has confirmed and deepend these impressions. Excavations at Megiddo (1925 to 1939) revealed construction features like those described for the palace (1 Kings 7:12). Sites of great storage cities, trading ports, and copper smelting furnaces from Solomon’s time have been found and examined.
Wealth. The years of Solomon saw a great influx of wealth into Palestine. Israel controlled many trade routes vital to the ancient world: horses were purchased in Egypt and resold at great profit in the north. Solomon engaged in joint ventures with Hiram of Tyre to develop a grading fleet, which searched the Mediterranean and Africa for exotic goods, and sold them the copper and bronze produced by Solomon’s mines and refined in his furnaces. The land of Palestine also produced rich agricultural harvests of olives, grain, flax, grapes, and figs.
Second Chronicles 9:13 gives Solomon’s income, exclusive of trade revenue and taxes, at 25 tons of gold annually! Because of this tremendous income and the natural wealth of the land, Solomon’s government grew into a weighty bureaucracy. His ambitious building projects demanded more money than was available. So Solomon laid heavy taxes on his people. At his death, the wealthy land was near bankruptcy, and the people cried out desperately for relief from the oppressive taxation.