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1 Kings

As King David was dying, Queen Bathsheba and the Prophet Nathan conspired to make his son Solomon king in his place, in the face of rival claims. On Solomon's death the northern kingdom Israel and southern kingdom Judah each appointed their own King, and both royal houses drifted away from God. The story becomes a complex sequence of short-lived kings in both the northern and southern kingdoms. Prophets in both kingdoms started giving warnings of defeat and exile, as recorded in the books from Isaiah onwards.

This book is titled "3 Kingdoms" in the Greek Bible.[1]

According to Nehemiah 8:17, the full Law was not followed throughout the period covered by this book.

See Old Testament regarding authorship.



Walsh[2 p.3] sees a nested structure in the opening of the book, most of which describes a single day:

A. King David is dying (1:1–4)

B. Adonijah exalts himself (1:5–8)

C. Adonijah holds a feast (1:9–10)

D. Nathan conspires to make Solomon king (1:11–14)

E. Four scenes in David's chambers (1:15–37)

D'. Nathan and others make Solomon king (1:38–40)

C'. Adonijah's feast is disrupted (1:41–50)

B'. Adonijah abases himself (1:51–53)

A'. King David dies (2:1–12a)


The wording suggests that the court was seeking a new Bathsheba, a beautiful girl to lie in the king's bosom (cf. 2 Samuel 11:2, 12:3).


Apparently David was now too feeble to be envigorated by the attractive virgin Abishag. His death was imminent, so the succession to the throne must be sorted out urgently.


Adonijah was supported by old warriors who had been with David in Hebron when Adonijah was born...


...but was opposed by a court faction who favoured Solomon, born to Bathsheba in Jerusalem.


The author draws our attention the fact that Adonijah's feast was held near the place just outside Jerusalem where Jonathan hid from Absolom in 2 Samuel 17:17.


The author keeps mentioning Nathan as "the prophet" as if he is amused that a prophet should get involved in court intrugues.


Nathan seemed to interpret Adonijah's feast as some sort of coronation by popular acclaim.


To get to the king, Bathsheba had to face the girl who had replaced her at his side.


Bathsheba started with the speech that Nathan suggested and added on her own initiative that David's oldest allies and eldest son were being disloyal to him, while she addressed him as lord and king. She mentioned Joab, who David mistrusted (2:5–6). This had its desired effect: David was stirred to one last kingly order.


Bathsheba apparently discretely left the room when Nathan came in to speak to David, but he recalled her in :28.


Nathan added confirmatory details to what he had prompted Bathsheba to say, emphasising that Adonijah's banquet was happening that day, implying that the matter was of the greatest urgency. He did not refer to Joab by name but to "commanders of the host", making Adonijah's banquet sound like a military coup.


Nathan mentioned names of some officials loyal to David, which possibly guided David's choice in verse 32 of the people who should put things right.


When David called for Bathsheba, Nathan apparently discretely left the room as she had done when he came in. David recalled him in :32.


Bathsheba was clearly delighted with the result of her intervention, and praised David extravagantly.


David called for the very people who Nathan identified in :26 as not having been invited to Adonijah's banquet. Benaiah was not mentioned in the instructions that followed, but as commander of the king's bodyguard it would be clear that he should keep the ceremony safe from interferrence.


Walsh[2 p.25] sees a nested structure in David's instructions:

A. Solomon is to be seated on the king's mule;

B. He is to be led down to the Gihon;

C. He is to be anointed king;

D. The shofar is to be sounded;

C'. Solomon is to be acclaimed king;

B'. He is to go up, leading the people;

A'. He is to sit on the king's throne.

The ceremony David described would make it clear that Solomon's coronation had the blessing of both God and David; the latter should satisfy the subjects who followed other religions. Perhaps the unity of the kingdom still could not be taken for granted; Judah acknowledged David as its king in 2 Samuel 2:4, while Israel did in 2 Samuel 5:3. The sound of the trumpet in the Gihon valley would alert the Jerusalem area to something important going on.


David emphasized that Solomon should be king of both Israel and Judah. After being anointed and proclaimed king in the Gihon valley, Solomon was to have a triumphal entry into Jerusalem—​cf. Jesus in Matthew 21:2–7.


Benaiah, commander of the king's bodyguard, immediately affirmed his loyalty.


A sense of panic gripped Adonijah's group; the report of what had happened spilled out chaotically, out of sequence. Solomon moved before he got on the mule.


The report emphasized to Adonijah that Solomon had been anointed with holy oil.


The noise gave Adonijah the impression that the people supported that Solomon's coronation.


Adonijah went to the tabernacle for sanctuary, and in 2:28 Joab did the same, but that only postponed the ending of the conflict. Perhaps they needed time to think.


The immediate conflict seems ended, but an air of tension remains, as shown by the guarded statements made by both sides.


David made a final speech, as was customary. The elements of religious correctness jar with the violent vendettas. David seems to be both giving the instructions he feels he should give and handing over his unfinished business (which might require Solomon to keep a close watch on some of the characters in his court, who could prove untrustworthy) with a closing remark in verse 9 to the effect that Solomon should use his judgment to sort out the conflicting expectations placed on him.


The vague reference to "what Joab did to me" may refer to the fact that he killed David's son Absolom (2 Samuel 18:14) and then told David off for grieving over it (2 Samuel 19:5).


"City of David": see comment on 2 Samuel 5:6–8.


These verses make it sound as if there was a smooth transition of power from David to Solomon, but the previous chapter shows that the transition was contested and violent.


Apparently Adonijah thought that being married to one of Solomon's queens would enhance his claim to the throne, and Abishag was still a virgin (1:4); but Solomon was wise enough (encouraged by his father David's warnings) to spot it. Since he was not her son but the son of Haggith, Bathsheba would probably not have supported the plot so we must assume she was unaware of the reason behind Adonijah's request.


cf. 1 Kings 1:50.


It appears that the Temple was seen as a weapon in the war for pure worship—​see Appendix 2 Worship.


This verse tells us that Genesis 12:1–3 was fulfilled.


Hyssop: see Appendix 2: Hyssop.


See Appendix 2: Temple.


See comment on Isaiah 22:8. The room seems suitable for large meetings and royal audiences, and also for storing armour.


cf. Revelation 21:19.


cf. Psalm 30.


The sample of manna that had been put into the Ark of the Covenant earlier (Exodus 16:34) had apparently been lost, yet the contents of the temple were returned in Ezra 1:7. Ezra 5:13 says that only the gold and silver items were returned, which may exclude the wooden body of the Ark, and its contents.


cf. Exodus 40:34, Luke 7:38.


The curious phrase "name shall be there" suggests that Solomon, unlike others then and later, was under no illusion that the temple would be God's sole dwelling; verse 27 confirms it.


Solomon's prayer sounds very pious, but it is also political, in that it speaks of focussing all worship in Jerusalem, e.g. verses 29–30 and 33.


Solomon acknowledges the threat in Deuteronomy 11:17 which was carried out in 1 Kings 17.


This verse provides an example of spreading out one's hands to pray. It also indicates that the Temple was seen as the focus of God's presence.


cf. Romans 3:23.


Elijah was suffering from "suicidal depression".[6]


The visit of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon is confirmed by Ethiopian records and enlarged in the Koran (Sura 27 mostly). Sheba was a city, more correctly called Saba, at what is now known as Marib in Yemen. Saba had an empire known as the Sabean Empire. Ethiopia's most ancient ruins indicate that it was part of that Empire. The Queen who visited Solomon was called Bilquis.[3]


Saba was wealthy in biblical times, through trade in Frankincense and Myrr. These are sold there (Marib in Yemen) today in rough blocks. Sabean histories record emissaries visiting neighbouring states bearing gifts of Frankincense and Myrrh.[3] It is quite possible therefore that the gifts presented to Solomon included those presented to the baby Jesus by the Magi (Matthew 2:11).


The reference to governors is unclear; the Hebrew means literally "kings of the evening".


Shekel: see Appendix 2 Money.


Shekel: see Appendix 2 Money.


The similar names Jeroboam and Rehoboam can cause confusion. Rehoboam (with an R) was the real (with an R) heir apparent, being the son of Solomon. His ill-judged actions in this chapter led the northern tribes to set up a separate kingdom under Jeroboam.


cf. Mark 9:35.


This verse suggests that the old tribal way of thinking had passed, though the tribal names were still used. People descended from the northern tribes were living in the south, and thus fell under the geographical domain of Rehoboam, though their homeland had broken away.


Rohl[4 p.149f] identifies Shishak as Ramesses II, whose heiroglyphs record a seige of "Shalem"; 19th century scholars thought was the pharoah who enslaved the Hebrews in Egypt.


See comment on Hosea 1:4.


Jezebel was a foreigner and a Baal-worshipper, and led Ahab away from God.


"Elijah" means "Yahweh is God". "Tishbe" might be a place or simply mean "of the settlers"; certainly he seems to have had no settled home. See Deuteronomy 11:11.

It seems that the purpose of the drought and resulting famine was to demonstrate to Ahab that Baal was ineffective as a fertility god.

"At my word": Elijah wielded God's power, which was greater than that of Baal. This was fulfilled in 18:42–44.


Elijah had to step out first in faith, and receive blessing later, like the lepers in Luke 17:19.


Elijah was being sent on a mission to the Gentiles—​he was an Apostle. It is curious that he would be hidden from Jezebel and the worshippers of Baal by going to her own country.

The widow who provided for the prophet received a prophet's reward (Matthew 10:40–42).


Zarephath is in Zidon, where Jezebel came from (16:31). Perhaps Ahab and Jezebel would not look for Elijah there.


Jesus commented on this incident in Luke 4:25–26.


cf. 2 Kings 4:6.


The child was dead, as verse 21 confirms.


"Man of God": see Appendix 2 Prophecy. The woman believed that her misfortune must be a punishment from God for her sins, a common view which Jesus refuted in John 9:3.


God's compassionate nature was seen through Elijah's actions. Having interpreted her son's death as divine punishment, she might see his restoration as a sign of divine forgiveness. He saw touching a dead body in order to achieve this as a higher priority than the purity laws (Numbers 19:11).


This is claimed to be the first instance of the dead being raised in the Bible. Elijah stretched himself on the boy in order to diagnose the problem; LXX says he breathed on the boy; but it was his prayer to God that brought the cure[7]. Elisha acted similarly in 2 Kings 4:32–35.


God confirmed what Elijah was saying—​cf. 1 Peter 2:12 which demands Christ-like actions as well as words. He could not confirm his message himself.


A God-fearing man called Obadiah makes a brief appearance; he has no apparent connection with the prophet Obadiah. He was Ahab's Prime Minister, yet managed to keep a hundred prophets safe from Ahab's crusade against God, prompted by his wife Jezebel. Jexebel worshipped Baal, the Canaanite fertility god, and Ahab followed her in that religion (16:31). Obadiah was convinced that Ahab would kill him if his loyalty to God was discovered, as it might be when he announced that he had met ELijah.


The taunts the Elijah makes to the prophets of Baal, suggesting the Baal might be lost in thought, or on the toilet, or asleep, or has gone out, affect our understanding of the Incarnation, because Jesus must have done all those things, yet Christians believe he was God. See Psalm 121:3–4.


Pouring twelve barrels of water over the sacrifice was in itself a great sacrifice after several years of drought. It represented a leap of faith. Perhaps the water seeping into the ground drew lightning to the sacrifice.


See comment on Revelation 8:1.


Elijah persisted in prayer (cf. Luke 18:1–8) as he waited for what God promised through him in verse 17:1.


God does not rebuke Elijah for being exhausted, but he wants Elijah to admit his need, and to receive strength and a new commission. Following the wonderful success against the prophets of Baal his main needs are food, sleep and new inspiration, but he perceives physical threats and failure. Perhaps the fact that his victories have not silenced Jezebel makes it all seem futile. Perhaps Elijah was also too caught up in business to receive what God knew he needed, so he needed to slow down enormously before the mountain-top experience could take place. He runs away to the desert (cf. Exodus 3:1, and the giving of the Law in Sinai, and Jesus's temptations in the wilderness—​Matthew 4:1), where he meets God afresh. God's strength is made perfect in our weakness.

Spiritual weariness can be caused by:
1) lack of "fresh air": lack of prayer;
2) overwork: not focussing on what God requires, and taking on tasks for which he has not equipped us;
3) lack of nourishment: from our mentors, our students, or contemplating God;
4) discouragement: this is the Devil's job; we should take care not to discourage people too.

Elijah's flight into the wilderness follows a pattern similar to that of Moses when he ran from justice after murdering the Hebrew in Exodus 2:15.


The restoration of Elijah follows a pattern similar to that of the restoration of Peter in John 21:12, without the dramatic signs that Moses experienced in Exodus.


The bread and water correspond to the manna and water provided for the Hebrews in the Exodus.


Perhaps Elijah went to Horeb in the hope of receiving something special, as Moses did in Exodus 3 and Exodus 19. It doesn't actually say that he fasted for the next forty days, but that he felt that the angelic food continued to sustain and empower him. However, we are told in Luke 4:2 that Jesus fasted for 40 days.


cf. verse 13. Like a bereaved person, Elijah needs to tell his story more than once; but even in this state, he still displays a prophet's characteristics of alertness to the voice of God, and willingness to obey him.


Elijah's claim that he was the only one left seems to be an emotional outburst rather than a factual statement; as far as we know Obadiah and the 100 prophets he had hidden (see 18:3–16) were still alive.


The power and majesty of the Lord can be glimpsed in stormy winds, earthquakes and fires (see Exodus 19:18, Acts 2:2–3 and 4:31), but they are destructive and we must defend ourselves from them. Elijah was used to seeing dramatic theophanies, but that was not where he was to be found on this occasion. Hearing God's voice often requires stillness, and the hardest part is stilling one's mind.


Brother Ramon[5 p.33] says the sound is described literally as "the sound of gentle stillness". Perhaps we should think of it as an eerie silence.


See verse 9. Elijah was bearing in mind the warning in Exodus 33:20. Just like Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:1–6) Elijah encountered God and received new instructions when he went to investigate something unusual.


Having acknowledged his own inadequacy he is able to receive God's strength and hear his specific instructions. He had to retrace his steps a little (cf. Jonah 3:1), but then strike out North into territory he had not been to before.

The command to anoint Hazael was apparently carried out by Elijah's successor Elisha in 2 Kings 8:13.


Elijah seems not to have made Elisha his successor literally by anointing; Elisha asked for the job in 2 Kings 2:9 and though Elijah seemed unsure (2 Kings 2:10) the Lord kept his word and Elisha took over, even wearing Elijah's cloak.
The command to anoint Jehu was later initiated by Elisha in 2 Kings 9:1–7.


Elisha "burns his boats" to show and cement his resolution to be obedient to his new calling. Elijah's mantle became his in 2 Kings 2:13.


cf. Luke 9:59–62.


cf. 1 Samuel 8:14.


cf. Leviticus 25:23.


Though Naboth was dead, it was still illegal for the king to take his land, because it should automatically pass to Naboth's inheritors. Naboth's death made the scheme convenient but not legal.


Micah 1:2 takes this particular story forward.


  1. Holy Bible New Revised Standard Version Anglicized Edition, 1998 Oxford: OUP, 1989 & 1995
  2. Walsh, J.T. 1 Kings The Liturgical Press 1996
  3. TV programme by Michael Wood shown on BBC1 on 17 April 2004
  4. Rohl, David A Test of Time: The Bible—​from myth to history London: Century 1995
  5. Brother Ramon SSF Deeper into God Marshall Pickering 1987
  6. Elizabeth Rundle writing in BRF New Daylight" 30 November 2020
  7. Andrew R. Davis "Rereading 1 Kings 17:21 in the light of Ancient Medical Texts" in Journal of Biblical Literature Vol 135 no 3 pp 465–481

© David Billin 2002–2024