You will find an introduction and outline to 1 Kings, here.
A prayer to use before reading from the Book of Common Worship:
God, source of all light, by your Word you give light to the soul. Pour out upon us the spirit of wisdom and understanding that, being taught by you in Holy Scripture, our hearts and minds may be opened to know the things that pertain to life and holiness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
An Outline of 1 Kings (from Nelson)
I. 1 Kings 1:1-11:43 The Reign of Solomon
A. 1:1-2:46 Solomon Comes to the Throne
B. 3:1-4:34 Solomon Governs Wisely
C. 5:1-8:66 Solomon Builds the Temple
D. 9:1-10:29 Solomon and All His Glory:
10:1-13 The Queen of Sheba pays a Visit: The rich and sophisticated Queen of Sheba is amazed by Solomon’s wealth. 120 talents of gold is more than 2 tons of gold.
10:14-29 More Prosperity and Glory: Solomon’s wealth comes from international trade. The amounts of gold mentioned are astounding and are here to impress the reader rather than reflect the actual amount of gold. Other items mentioned are also here to amaze and reinforce Solomon’s power and wealth. The ships of Tarshish were long distance trading vessels. A round trip took approximately 3 years.
E. 11:1-43 Solomon’s Wrongdoing and Its Consequences: Now the portrait of Solomon shifts from positive to negative.
11:1-13 Solomon’s Infidelity. While these marriages were likely for diplomatic purposes, they also violate the sense of Deut 7:3-4. Astarte was a goddess of Sidon and the eastern Mediterranean. Milcom was the national god of Ammon and Chemosh was the national god of Moab. In verse 9 God speaks with Solomon again and God sets out the consequences of Solomon’s disobedience. Why do you think Solomon doesn’t directly suffer the consequences but his son does?
11:14-25 Solomon’s Adversaries: Solomon does not escape without troubles of his own. Three adversaries are presented as raised up by God.
11:26-40 Jeroboam and Ahijah: The author wants us to understand the theological reasons for Jeroboam’s success after Solomon’s death. Notice the prophet tears his robe into 12 pieces but only 11 are accounted for in the text. Scholars think that the unnamed tribe may have been Benjamin because it’s status shifted between the Northern and Southern kingdoms. Still God remember’s God’s promise to David and Davidic rule is not completely extinguished. Nelson notes, “The story of Ahijah introduces the prophetic word to the story line of Kings. From now on, the Lord will never do anything significant without first providing a prophetic warning.” (Nelson, 287)
11:26-43 Solomon dies. His death is described using what will become the standard formula used for following kings. The 40 years of Solomon’s reign likely reflects the traditional length of a generation.
II. 1 Kings 12:1-16:34 Israel and Judah as Separate Kingdoms: Now the story becomes complicated because the text tells us about two kingdoms, Israel and Judah. As we read on, remember that Judah is the recipient of God’s promise to David and Israel is not.
A. 12:1-14:20 The Origin of the Kingdom of Israel:
12:1-24 Rehoboam’s Folly. Rehoboam is Solomon’s successor who rules over Israel (the Northern Tribes). Rehoboam’s actions are the human causes of the nation’s split into two kingdoms. The reader knows that Ahijah’s prophetic word is being fulfilled. Rehoboam foolishly ignores the advise of older wiser people (make some concessions for long term loyalty) and follows the poor advise of younger people. Scorpions probably referred to a cruel lash. In verse 16, the people have had enough. Rehoboam flees to Jerusalem and Jeroboam is installed as king. In verse 21 Rehoboam has Judah and the tribe of Benjamin (which has reappeared in the story line and wants to retake the other “houses”. A man of God tells him not to and Rehoboam obeys.
12:25-33 Jeroboam’s Sin: Verses 25-26 are unusual. Typically, in Hebrew literature, we do not know what people are thinking. Jeroboam violates the law of Deuteronomy.He builds altars for sacrifice outside of Jerusalem. He makes images of golden calves. Jeroboam’s words in verse 28 are almost the same as Aaron’s words in Exodus 32. But Jeroboam says “gods” in v 28 which suggests polytheism as well. He also appoints priests from the wrong lineage and changes the religious calendar. Modern scholars think that Jeroboam was most likely following traditional Northern worship practices, but for the writers of Kings these are serious violations of the law. In a way Jeroboam functions as the prime example of wickedness in contrast to David the example of pious and obedient behavior.
13:1-10 God’s Word against Bethel: A man of God ( another prophet) prophesies the future reforms of Josiah. There is also the immediate sign of the affliction and healing Jeroboam. The prophet’s refusal to eat with Jeroboam may reflect a judgment against the king.
13:11-32 The Message survives the Messenger. This is a complex story involving the man of God from Judah and another prophet in Bethel. The prophet first delivers a false of trick statement. Then after the man of God was deceived, the prophet delivers a true word. The odd behavior of the lion implies that God is involved in this situation. Then the prophet buries the man of God as he would a brother. All this seems to be telling the reader that God’s word must be obeyed and reinforces the prophecy of Bethel’s doom. Verses 31-32 reinforces Jeroboam’s wicked behavior.
14:1-20 God’s Word Against Jeroboam: The prophet knows who has come to him and is not deceived. Even though Ahujah cannot see, he can still “see”. In the Old Testament sin and punishment often have corporate or communal implications. To us punishing a child for the parents sin seems wrong, in the world of Jeroboam the actions of an individual impacted more than just the individual. Likewise, Israel suffers for Jeroboam’s sin. Verses 19-20 tell of Jeroboam’s death.
B. 14:21-16:34 The Lessons of History: The text covers about fifty years of history in these few chapters. Notice how often the anger of the Lord is referred to.
14:21-30 Rehoboam (Judah/Northern kingdom) We are told about Rehoboam’s wrong doing with respect to worship, again the laws of Deuteronomy ( see chapters 12,23) are broken. Other sources also tell of Pharaoh Shishak attack on Israel and Judah. Notice the concluding formula for Rehoboam, and how similar it is to other concluding formulas.
III. 1 Kings 17:1- 22:53 Prophets and Kings
A. 17:1-18:46 Elijah versus Baal
B. 19:1-22:53 Elijah versus Ahab and Jezebel
Read More About It:
Here are several good sources to aid your reading of 1 Kings
Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, Understanding the Old Testament Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.
Nelson, Richard D. “1 and 2 Kings” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary Mays, James L. ed.(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.
Romer, Thomas, “1 Kings” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, Fully Revised 4 th Edition, Michael Cougan, ed. (New York:Oxford University Press) 2010.
Stinespring, William F. and Burke O. Long “ 1 Kings” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books Metzger, Bruce M., Roland E. Murphy, eds.(New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.