Jehovah’s Word Is Alive
Highlights From the Book of First Kings
“WHEN the righteous become many, the people rejoice; but when anyone wicked bears rule, the people sigh.” (Proverbs 29:2) The Bible book of First Kings vividly demonstrates the truth of this proverb. It relates the life story of Solomon, during whose kingship ancient Israel enjoys a time of security and great prosperity. First Kings also includes an account of the dividing of the nation after Solomon’s death and of 14 kings who followed him, some in Israel and some in Judah. Only two of these kings were consistently faithful to Jehovah. In addition, the book recounts the activities of six prophets, including Elijah.
Written in Jerusalem and Judah by the prophet Jeremiah, the narrative covers a period of some 129 years—from 1040 B.C.E. to 911 B.C.E. While compiling the book, Jeremiah evidently consulted such ancient records as “the book of the affairs of Solomon.” Those separate records are no longer extant.—1 Kings 11:41; 14:19; 15:7.
A WISE KING PROMOTES PEACE AND PROSPERITY
First Kings begins with an intriguing account of an attempt by King David’s son Adonijah to usurp his father’s kingship. The prophet Nathan’s prompt action foils the plan, and David’s son Solomon is made king. Jehovah is pleased with the request of the newly enthroned king and gives him “a wise and understanding heart” along with “riches and glory.” (1 Kings 3:12, 13) The king’s wisdom is without equal, his wealth beyond compare. Israel enjoys a period of peace and prosperity.
Among the building projects Solomon completes are Jehovah’s temple and various government buildings. Jehovah assures Solomon: “I [will] establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel to time indefinite,” provided the king remains obedient. (1 Kings 9:4, 5) The true God also warns him of the consequences of disobedience. Solomon, though, comes to have many foreign wives. Under their influence, he turns to false worship in his old age. Jehovah foretells that his kingdom will be divided. In 997 B.C.E., Solomon dies, bringing an end to his 40-year reign. His son Rehoboam ascends the throne.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
1:5—Why did Adonijah try to seize the throne while David was still alive? The Bible does not say. However, it is reasonable to conclude that since Adonijah’s older brothers Amnon and Absalom were already dead, as was probably David’s son Chileab, Adonijah thought that he had the right to the throne as the eldest of David’s remaining sons. (2 Samuel 3:2-4; 13:28, 29; 18:14-17) Having elicited the support of the powerful army chief Joab and the influential high priest Abiathar, Adonijah likely felt confident that his attempt would succeed. The Bible does not say whether he knew of David’s intent to have Solomon inherit the throne. However, Adonijah did not invite Solomon and others loyal to David to “a sacrifice.” (1 Kings 1:9, 10) This suggests that he viewed Solomon as a rival.
1:49-53; 2:13-25—Why did Solomon put Adonijah to death after granting him a pardon? Even though Bath-sheba had failed to recognize it, Solomon discerned the true intention behind Adonijah’s request that she ask the king to give him Abishag as a wife. Though David had not had relations with her, beautiful Abishag was considered David’s concubine. According to the custom of the times, she would become the property only of David’s legal heir. Adonijah might have thought that by taking Abishag as his wife, he could again make a bid for the throne. Interpreting Adonijah’s request as a manifestation of ambition for the kingship, Solomon revoked the pardon.
6:37–8:2—When was the temple inaugurated? The temple was completed in the eighth month of 1027 B.C.E., the 11th year of Solomon’s reign. It seems that bringing in the furnishings and making other preparations took 11 months. The inauguration must have taken place in the seventh month of the year 1026 B.C.E. The narrative describes other construction projects after the temple’s completion and before mentioning its inauguration, evidently to round out the discussion about the building operations.—2 Chronicles 5:1-3.
9:10-13—Was Solomon’s gift of 20 cities in the land of Galilee to King Hiram of Tyre in harmony with the Mosaic Law? The Law as stated at Leviticus 25:23, 24 could have been regarded as applying only to an area occupied by the Israelites. It is possible that the cities Solomon gave to Hiram were inhabited by non-Israelites, although lying within the boundary of the Promised Land. (Exodus 23:31) Solomon’s action could also have been an indication of his failure to comply completely with the Law, as when he ‘increased horses for himself’ and took many wives. (Deuteronomy 17:16, 17) Whatever the case, Hiram was dissatisfied with the gift. Perhaps the cities were not well-kept by their pagan inhabitants, or it may be that they were not ideally located.
11:4—Did senility cause Solomon to become unfaithful in his old age? This does not seem to be the case. Solomon was quite young when he began ruling, and although he reigned for 40 years, he did not reach an advanced old age. Moreover, he did not completely leave off following Jehovah. He apparently tried to practice some form of interfaith.
Lessons for Us:
2:26, 27, 35. What Jehovah foretells always comes true. The removal of Abiathar, a descendant of Eli, fulfilled “Jehovah’s word that he had spoken against the house of Eli.” Replacing Abiathar with Zadok from the line of Phinehas was in fulfillment of Numbers 25:10-13.—Exodus 6:25; 1 Samuel 2:31; 3:12; 1 Chronicles 24:3.
2:37, 41-46. How dangerous it is to think that one can step out of bounds with impunity! Those who deliberately deviate from following ‘the cramped road leading off into life’ will suffer the consequences of that unwise decision.—Matthew 7:14.
8:22-53. What heartfelt appreciation Solomon expressed for Jehovah—a God of loving-kindness, the Fulfiller of promises, and the Hearer of prayer! Meditating on the words of Solomon’s inauguration prayer will enhance our appreciation for these and other aspects of God’s personality.
11:9-14, 23, 26. When Solomon became disobedient in his later years, Jehovah raised up resisters. “God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones,” says the apostle Peter.—1 Peter 5:5.
11:30-40. King Solomon sought to kill Jeroboam because of what Ahijah had prophesied concerning Jeroboam. How different the king’s response was some 40 years earlier when he refused to seek revenge against Adonijah and other conspirators! (1 Kings 1:50-53) This change of attitude was a result of his drawing away from Jehovah.
A UNITED KINGDOM IS RIPPED APART
Jeroboam and the people come to King Rehoboam and ask him to lighten the burden imposed by his father, Solomon. Instead of granting their request, Rehoboam threatens to place an even heavier load on them. Ten tribes revolt and make Jeroboam king over them. The kingdom stands divided. Rehoboam rules over the southern kingdom, made up of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and Jeroboam reigns over the northern ten-tribe kingdom of Israel.
To discourage the people from going to Jerusalem to worship, Jeroboam sets up two golden calves—one at Dan and the other at Bethel. Among the kings who rule in Israel after Jeroboam are Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Tibni, Omri, Ahab, and Ahaziah. Abijam, Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Jehoram succeed Rehoboam in Judah. Prophets active in the days of these kings include Ahijah, Shemaiah, and an unnamed man of God, as well as Jehu, Elijah, and Micaiah.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
18:21—Why were the people silent when Elijah asked them to follow either Jehovah or Baal? It could be that they recognized their failure to give Jehovah the exclusive devotion that he exacts and therefore felt guilty. Or perhaps their consciences were hardened to the extent that they saw nothing wrong with worshipping Baal while claiming to be worshippers of Jehovah. It was only after Jehovah demonstrated his power that they said: “Jehovah is the true God! Jehovah is the true God!”—1 Kings 18:39.
20:34—After Jehovah gave Ahab victory over the Syrians, why did Ahab spare their king, Ben-hadad? Instead of striking Ben-hadad down, Ahab concluded a covenant with him by which streets in the Syrian capital, Damascus, would be assigned to Ahab, evidently for the establishment of bazaars, or markets. Earlier, Ben-hadad’s father had similarly assigned himself streets in Samaria for commercial purposes. Hence, Ben-hadad was released so that Ahab could establish commercial interests in Damascus.
Lessons for Us:
12:13, 14. When making vital decisions in life, we should seek the advice of wise and mature individuals who are knowledgeable in the Scriptures and have high regard for godly principles.
14:13. Jehovah searches through us to look for the good in us. Regardless of how insignificant that good may be, he can make it grow as we do our best to serve him.
15:10-13. We must courageously reject apostasy and instead promote true worship.
17:10-16. The widow of Zarephath recognized Elijah as a prophet and received him as such, and Jehovah blessed her acts of faith. Today, Jehovah also notices our acts of faith, and he rewards those who support the Kingdom work in various ways.—Matthew 6:33; 10:41, 42; Hebrews 6:10.
19:11-13. Jehovah is not a nature god or a mere personification of natural forces.
20:11. When Ben-hadad bragged about destroying Samaria, Israel’s king answered: “Do not let one girding on [his armor in preparation for battle] boast about himself like one unfastening” his armor after returning victorious from battle. When faced with a new task, we must avoid the overconfidence of a braggart.—Proverbs 27:1; James 4:13-16.
Of Great Value to Us
When recounting the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai, Moses told the sons of Israel: “See, I am putting before you today blessing and malediction: the blessing, provided you will obey the commandments of Jehovah your God that I am commanding you today; and the malediction, if you will not obey the commandments of Jehovah your God and you do turn aside from the way about which I am commanding you today.”—Deuteronomy 11:26-28.
How clearly this vital truth is brought to our attention in the book of First Kings! As we have seen, this book also teaches other valuable lessons. Its message is indeed alive and exerts power.—Hebrews 4:12.
[Picture on page 29]
The temple and other buildings constructed by Solomon
[Picture on page 30, 31]
After Jehovah demonstrated his power, the people exclaimed: “Jehovah is the true God!”