In our next lesson from The MANual again covers two books: 1 Kings and 2 Kings. Coupled with the two books of the prophet Samuel in my last post, they form a section in my NIV Bible for Men titled “A Nation’s Rise and Fall”.
According to Wikipedia, the book of Kings is the eleventh and twelfth books of the Christian Old Testament and ninth book of the Hebrew Bible (the Bible used by Jews), which combines 1 and 2 Kings into a single book, as it does 1 and 2 Samuel). Once translated into Greek, the books of Samuel and books of Kings become a four-part work called the Book of Kingdoms. Orthodox Christians continue to use the Greek translation (called (the Septuagint). The translation into Latin (called the Vulgate) for the western church separates Samuel and Kings into two books each.
About the Book of Kingdoms
The books of 1 Kings and 2 Kings do not name an author but tradition is the prophet, Jeremiah wrote them. First Kings has 22 chapters about King David’s death and his son, Solomon’s reign as king. It describes the division into the northern kingdom called Israel and the southern kingdom called Judah, along with the emergence of the prophet, Elijah. Second Kings has 25 chapters that continue the story of a divided kingdom that begins to slide into idolatry and corruption. Both books, probably written after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., cover the nearly 300 years of events starting about 970 B.C. when Solomon becomes king.
David Anoints Solomon as King
First Kings opens when King David is well-advanced in his years. Adonijah, a son of David’s wife, Haggith began boasting he would be king. The prophet Nathan, David’s close adviser, goes to Bathsheba and tells her of Adonijah’s conspiracy. Bathsheba reminds David that he vowed to make Solomon king after him so David gives a famous charge to Solomon, “Be strong. Show yourself a man” (1 Kings 2:2). David tells Solomon he must observe the requirements of The Lord by keeping God’s decrees, commandments, and following the Laws of Moses. If he does, he would be successful in all he did and everywhere he went. God would also keep the promise to David that one of his descendants would remain on the throne.
The Not-So-Wise King
Solomon takes the throne after David dies and quickly deposes his detractors: Adonijah, Abiathar, and Joab to secure his grip on the kingdom (2:1-46). Solomon begins a pattern of hundreds of marital alliances with surrounding nations, which was a common practice in those ancient times. He makes a pact with Egypt and marries Pharaoh’s daughter. Solomon gathers intelligence as he builds his kingdom by acquiring a hundred wives. Well-organized, he appointed high officials and governors to the territories. The entire land was at peace under his rule.
Solomon is considered the wisest man who ever lived. He builds the Temple in Jerusalem and furnishes it like an ornate palace (chapters 5-7). He summons the Ark of the Covenant to the Temple and asks the people to rededicate themselves to God’s service. However, his foreign wives brought their gods into Jerusalem. This led to the influx of pagan ideas and practices from the nations that eventually lures Solomon into idolatry (11:6).
A Word to the Wise
Knowledge is the accumulation of facts and data you learned or acquired. It’s facts and ideas gained through study, research, investigation, observation, or experience. However, wisdom comes when you apply that knowledge in a practical, beneficial way; not only for your benefit but for the benefit of others. It’s the ability to discern and judge which aspects are true and applicable to your life. Wisdom is the ability to use your knowledge and know what it means to your life.
Solomon had all the knowledge but his effective leadership was nullified by an ineffective personal life. His father, King David had repented of his sins in the second half of his life and exemplified obedience to God and urged his son to do the same. But Solomon didn’t learn this lesson until later in life (which I will cover in the lessons from Ecclesiastes).
- What does it mean to be a wise and discerning leader?
- How often do you pray to God, who is the source of all wisdom?
The Divided Kingdom
Solomon’s rule lasted forty years until 931 B.C. and his death of natural causes at the age of 80 and burial alongside his father in the city of David, called Zion. Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, inherited his throne, which caused a civil war and ended the united kingdoms. The tribes’ revolt, forming two separate nations: the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. Ten of the twelve tribes rejected Rehoboam as their king and seceded. Jeroboam, an official of Solomon’s who had led a rebellion against him, becomes the new king of the northern tribes. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained loyal to Rehoboam, who re-formed the kingdom of Judah with Jerusalem as its capital.
Chapters 12-22 describe the disastrous consequences each nation experiences from all the wicked kings that ruled. It also includes the appearance of Elijah, the first of the prophets God sends to try to rescue the nations from their spiritual and moral decline. First Kings ends with the story of the death of Ahab, the most wicked king of all.
Second Kings depicts the downfall of the divided kingdom. In chapters 1-17, Elijah concludes his ministry. He hands over the reins to Elisha, who carries out twice as many miracles as Elijah.
Men of God: Elijah
Elijah’s name means “Yahweh is God” and he is connected to seven significant miracles. He predicted the beginning and end of a three-year drought. God used him to restore a dead child to his mother. He single-handedly represented God in a spiritual showdown with Ahab and the 450 prophets of the false god, Baal, and 400 prophets of the false goddess Asherah at Mount Carmel (chapter 18). Elisha followed Elijah as his spiritual mentor and became the next prophet of God. When Elijah’s work was finished, God removed him from the earth and send him into Heaven via a whirlwind from a chariot of fire (2:9). Elijah later appears with Moses and Jesus in the transfiguration scene in the New Testament (Matthew 17:1–13). Elijah was the most famous and dramatic of the prophets.
- What aspects of your faith, habits, and activities will others remember and continue to practice when you are gone from this life?
We also find in these chapters, details about many kings. Of the 12 kings of Israel and 16 of Judah, only Hezekiah and Josiah of Judah were considered good. They rebuilt the Temple and prepared the people for the Passover. Josiah eradicated its idolatry and Judah stood strong for 136 years due to this spiritual revival and obedience. But as soon as Josiah was gone, the people of Judah returned to live their own way instead of God’s way. Israel was not exempt. During the reign of the evil king, Hoshea, the Assyrians take the northern kingdom into captivity.
He Sets Up Leaders
Whether you believe they are good or bad, God puts all leaders in place to accomplish His plans. Whenever you are frustrated with your boss or the latest political leader, know that God placed them for a specific reason that only He knows. God has the situation under control — your job is to knuckle down and do the work and support the leader. God is looking for obedient servants who seek His will regardless of the circumstances.
- The question you should be asking is, “How can I best serve God in this situation?”
- Do you support your government leaders, regardless of your party affiliation?
In 2 Kings 18-25, we read that the Southern Kingdom is not doing much better and will also face God’s judgment. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon leads his army to overthrow Assyria and then defeats Egypt. He invades the land of Judah three times and destroys Jerusalem. This was Israel’s last hope of gaining back its land. Their earthly kingdom was demolished but God kept the spiritual kingdom alive in the hearts of the exiles by using prophets.
God Buddy Focus
It’s hard not to be discouraged when you read the two books of Kings. It seems that God’s whole plan is blowing up and the people have gone crazy, following corrupt king after corrupt king. It’s easy to ask, “What in the world is God doing?” As king after king goes astray, we could wonder, “Why doesn’t God just turn His back and walk away, and say, “Enough already! I’m done with you all!” If we’re honest, we can even look around at our world today and say the same thing. Politician after politician seems corrupt. I can’t trust my boss. It’s easy for us to say, “Enough already!”
But the books of Kings remind us that we must serve God only. We must not serve false gods. We must listen to God’s words and not do evil deeds. If we do, God might send someone to warn us to listen to the advice of godly people.
This week in a group:
- Discuss the concept of showing yourself as a godly man.
- Identify some men you trust for their wisdom who could become a spiritual mentor as Elisha had in Elijah.
- Talk about the challenges of following leaders at work or in the government who are hard to follow. Pray for these godly leaders and God’s will for our nation.
The next post on the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles provides lessons from those who survived the exile to Babylon.