Five significant events occur during this time period:
1. David’s dynasty established.
1 Kings 1-2 especially recount how God established Solomon on the throne of David, and Solomon sees in his accession the faithfulness of God to his father (3:6).
2. Solomon’s building of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Events related to the building of the Temple occupy the majority of chapters 5-8. Building the Temple was not just a whim of Solomon’s but the fulfillment of a promise God had made to David (2 Samuel 7:13; 1 Kings 8:10-21).
3. The beginning of Israel’s Divided Monarchy.
Solomon’s weakness for foreign women and his worship of their gods tragically results in a divided kingdom with Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, reigning over the Southern Kingdom of Judah and Jeroboam I becoming king over the northern ten tribes (1 Kings 12).
4. Jeroboam I’s golden calf worship at Bethel and Dan.
This spiritually devastating decision of Jeroboam’s was motivated by an unnecessary fear that he would lose his kingdom (12:26-30). God had promised Jeroboam an enduring dynasty like David’s if he chose obedience to Him (11:38), but Jeroboam refused to believe the divine promise, choosing instead to lean upon his own understanding.
5. The ongoing role of the prophetic office as an advisor to the monarchy.
The prophets functioned as royal advisors even in the monarchy’s earliest days—Saul had Samuel; David, Nathan and Gad. But the prophets’ role in advising and directing the kings of Israel becomes more prominent in 1 Kings. The prophets almost seem to run the kingdom at times. Nathan oversees the plan that lands Solomon safely on David’s throne (1:11-27). The prophet Ahijah awards the ten tribes to Jeroboam (11:29-39) and later announces the doom of Jeroboam’s entire house. Shemaiah prevents Rehoboam from warring against Jeroboam. Elijah tells Ahab when it will rain, when he should ride his chariot down Mount Carmel, and how he and his wife Jezebel will die.
Elijah towers over any other prophetic figure in 1 Kings, but many, many others faithfully do their part as well. Note especially how Elijah and other men of God “interfere” with Ahab’s agenda to go it alone apart from Yahweh, the one true God: unnamed prophets direct Ahab’s war efforts (see chapter 20), and Micaiah foretells his death in battle (22:17). Those pesky prophets of Yahweh!
Woven in and out of these and other events of 1 Kings are the following recurring four themes:
1. David as God’s standard of spiritual excellence.
God repeatedly holds David up before future kings as the king who followed Him with a perfect heart (3:14; 11:4, 33-34; 15:3-5, 11). David’s flesh was as weak as any man’s, but his heart was unusually God’s.
2. The multigenerational impact of Jeroboam’s golden calf worship.
Virtually every king of the Northern Kingdom “walked in the way of Jeroboam” (15:26, 34; 16:2, 19, 26, 31; 22:52), even Zimri who reigned for only ten days (16:19).
3. Dynastic continuance conditioned upon obedience.
The Davidic monarchy would continue uninterrupted if each king obeyed God (2:4; 3:14; 8:25). God would perpetuate His dwelling in the Temple if Solomon walked in His statutes (6:11-13). The continuance of Jeroboam’s dynasty also hinged upon an “if clause” (11:38).
4. Events unfold exactly as God has said, especially what He has declared through His prophetic messengers.
This theme dominates 1 Kings. At least eighteen times, 1 Kings records that something God said came to pass (2:27; 8:53-56; 12:15; 13:5, 26; 14:18; 15:29; 16:12, 34; 17:6, 16; 18:45; 20:21, 26, 29, 36; 22:36, 38). The full formula is something like this: “it happened according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by the hand of His servant [the prophet’s name].” Moses, Joshua, Ahijah, Jehu, Elijah, and Micaiah, among others, all spoke words of God that came to pass. In chapter 20, unnamed prophets make five predictions, and all five happen. The bizarre death of the disobedient man of God from Judah, who died just as God said he would, confirmed the future fulfillment of the prophecies he had uttered against the altar at Bethel (13:21-32).
Solomon learned the hard way that not just all God’s good words (8:56), but even His words of judgment come to pass. Harassed by enemies raised up by the Lord as chastisement (11:14-26), Solomon ends up on the wrong side of the very promises he had himself repeated back to God in prayer (8:25).
The books of Samuel reminded us that God reigns sovereign over the kingdoms of men. 1 Kings makes clear how: God rules over men by means of His words. All He says will come to pass. Mankind has only two choices: heed those words or reap the consequences of not doing so.