1 and 2 Kings, like 1 and 2 Samuel were originally one book. 1 and 2 Kings were divided in the 15th century, influenced by the Greek and Latin versions of the text. Originally the division into 1 and 2 Kings seems to have been for practical reasons to create scrolls that were a more manageable size. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings were names 1,2,3,4 Kingdoms.
1 and 2 Kings tell the history of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel from a deuteronomistic perspective. Deuteronomy through 2 Kings is called the deuteronomistic history because of a similar theological perspective in all those books. This history tells of Israel from the entry into the land through the exile in Babylon. The history is presented as the struggle of Israel to remain obedient to God’s teaching and to be God’s covenant people. 1 and 2 Kings tells of the failure of Israel and Judah to faithfully follow the commands found in Deuteronomy, particularly the worship of other gods and sacrifices performed outside of Jerusalem. An early version of 1 and 2 Kings may have been written about 620 BCE during the reign of King Josiah. King Josiah was a religious reformer who tried to stop the worship of other gods and wanted to have Jerusalem be the only place of worship. Scholars think that around 587 BCE revisions were made as a result of the Judean exile. Some think that further editing took place during the Persian period.
The reigns of the kings provide the organizing structure of the books and the kings are evaluated by their faithfulness to God. The faithfulness of the kings affects the fate of the nations of Judah and Israel. There are opening and closing formulas which serve to organize the history.
Opening formulas date each king’s first year by the reign of the ruler of the other kingdom. After covering the entire career of a particular king, the writer backtracks to describe the reigns of whatever king or kings of the other kingdom had come to the throne during the first king’s rule. …These formulas uniformly evaluate all the kings of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) as having done “evil in the sight of the Lord” for sacrificing outside of Jerusalem at Bethel. From the author’s theological viewpoint, this was a flagrant violation of the demand for centralized sacrifice set forth in Deuteronomy 12….The closing formulas refer to the writer’s sources and report on the king’s death and, in the case of Judah, give further details about age, mother’s name, and a notice of burial. Two events take place outside of this structure: the transfer of prophetic authority from Elijah to Elisha (2 Kings 2) and the story of the illegitimate Queen Athaliah (2 Kings 11). (Nelson, 279)
Most kings receive a brief treatment, but we are told more about the reign of some and those stories also usually involve prophets. So there is Jeroboam and Ahijah, Ahab and Elihah, Hezekiah and Isaiah, and Josiah and Huldah.
The author of Kings uses other, older sources and names three, “Book of the Acts of Solomon”, “Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel”, and “Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah”. These books were most likely not official records and more literary works. Other parts of Kings come from previously existing oral traditions about the prophets. Modern readers need to be careful using Kings as a completely accurate historical record. We know from archaeology and other sources that some things in Kings are historically accurate. The dates given for the reign of the kings of Judah and Israel do not always agree completely. There are also extra Biblical sources which give us different dates. The writer of Kings is concerned about theology and tells the story from a theological point of view rather than a strictly historical telling. Religious and moral failures of the kings and the people result in disaster for the kingdoms.
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
E. 11:1-43 Solomon’s Wrongdoing and Its Consequences
II. 1 Kings 12:1-16:34 Israel and Judah as Separate Kingdoms
A. 12:1-14:20 The Origin of the Kingdom of Israel
B. 14:21-16:34 The Lessons of History
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.