Module 18: The Failure of Human Kingship - Like the Nations
Module Guide: 1 Kings - Disruption
This pre-read guide is taken from the public domain source "The Analysed Bible in 3 Volumes" by G. Campbell Morgan.
The two books of Kings appear in the Hebrew Bible as one. They practically cover the whole period of kingly rule over the ancient people. In the reign of Solomon the kingdom reached the height of its material magnificence. With his passing the kingship really ceased to be the medium of Divine government. The prophetic period was introduced with the appearance of Elijah. The first book may be divided thus: the Passing of David (1-2:11); Solomon (2:12-11); Division (12-16); Elijah (17-22).
The Passing of David
The days of David's feebleness created the opportunity for rebellion against him under Adonijah, in which Joab and Abiathar took part. In consequence of this rebellion Soloman was crowned before the passing of David. The action of Solomon toward Adonijah was characteristic of the best gide of his nature. It was one in which clemency and dignified authority were blended. The last charge of David was one in which he indicated the path of safety for Solomon. It was that of absolute loyalty to God. That part of it in which David referred to Joab and Shimei has been very severely criticised. Much of this criticism would be impossible if some very simple things were borne in mind. First, David knew these men by experience, and appreciated their danger to the state. Second, he had kept his covenant with them, and spared their lives. Third, in each case he left the matter of how to deal with them in the hands of Solomon, assured of his wisdom. Finally, his words concerning the death of each are prophetic rather than vindictive.
This division falls into two parts, first that which reveals Solomon in all his glory, and secondly that which tells of the passing of that glory.
Among the first acts of the new king were those in which he dealt with the leading men of the kingdom in whose hearts were the impulses of treachery. There was no vindictive vengeance, but there was no vacillating weakness.
Early in his reign Jehovah appeared to Solomon in a dream. With that appearance came Solomon's great opportunity, both to manifest himself, and to obtain the best. His choice was characterized by great wisdom, as it revealed his consciousness of personal inability for all the work devolving upon him. God gave him what he asked, and added thereto the things he might have chosen, yet showed his wisdom in passing by. The account of his choice is followed by a picture in which he is seen exercising the gift for which he had asked, and which God had granted to him.
He gave himself to a careful organization of his kingdom, gathering around him a company of officers of state, each having his own department, for which he was held responsible. These were the days of the nation's greatest material prosperity. The people lived in merriment, and dwelt safely beneath their own vines and fig-trees.
Directly he had set his kingdom in order, Solomon turned his attention to the building of the Temple. It is evident that he appreciated the real purpose of his coming to the throne. The greatness of the work may be gathered from the account of the enormous amount of labour employed. Like the Tabernacle of old, its chief splendour was within, where everything was encased in gold, neither wood nor stone being visible.
The Temple being finished, it was solemnly dedicated. With great care, and impressive ceremony, they carried the ark into the holy of holies, and the glory of the Lord filled the house. The king offered the dedicatory prayer standing by the altar of burnt offering. Following the prayer, offerings were presented. At the close of the ceremonies the joyful people returned to their tents. It was the most perfect moment of national realization in the land. The Temple was erected, and the presence of God visibly manifested.
Jehovah now appeared to Solomon for the second time, declaring to him that his prayer was heard and answered, and urging the conditions which the people must fulfil. The material magnificence of the kingdom was marred by the admixture of failure. Cities were presented to Hiram, but he was dissatisfied with them. Cities were built within the kingdom, but they became hotbeds of evil. A commerce with other lands was established, but it became the medium of bringing into the land things which in their effect were evil. The coming of the queen of Sheba reveals how far the fame of Solomon had spread abroad. An account of the king's wealth cannot be read without the consciousness that the weaker, if not the baser, side of his nature is manifested in the abounding luxury with which he sur- rounded himself.
Suddenly the glory passed away, and in the rapid movements we behold his degeneracy and doom. His alliance with commercial enterprises led him into contact with surrounding peoples, and, giving himself over to Oriental custom, he allowed his heart to go after strange women. The wrong thus begun invaded higher realms. He built temples for the strange women who crowded his harem, and gradually but surely there followed the demoralization both of the king and his people, until at last the terrible words are written, "The Lord was angry with Solomon." The judgment of God began to operate immediately. Adversaries were raised up against him. At last there ended in gloom and failure a life full of promise, and that because the heart of the man turned from its loyalty to God in response to the seductions of his own sensual nature.
Following the death of Solomon we have an appalling st-ory of the break-up and degradation of the people covering a period of about sixty years. The kingdom was rent in twain. Jeroboam's sin cursed the whole after-history of the pec pie. The judgment of God proceeded immediately. Its first stroke was that of the sickness of Jeroboam's son, and in connection therewith the prophet Ahijah uttered the doom of the man, declaring that because of his sin he and all his were to be swept away. In the meantime Judah was also sinning. Thus so quickly after David, the nation was steeped in idolatry, and utterly failed to bear to the surrounding peoples the testimony to the purity of the Divine government which was the purpose for which they had been created. In Judah under Abijam the process of deterioration went forward. The corruption was not universal, for God maintained a lamp in the midst of His people. With the accession and long reign of Asa there was a halt in the downward progress. In the history of Israel the government of God can be traced, proceeding in a series of judgments against the continuity of sin which characterized the reigns of successive kings. Nadab the son of Jeroboam reigned for two years, and his influence was wholly evil. At last he was slain by Baasha, who succeeded him. He carried out the judgment of God on the house of Jeroboam by the destruction of all his sons, but for twenty-four years continued in the same line of evil. He was succeeded by Ela, a man utterly corrupt, who in turn was slain by Zimri. He carried out the judgment of God upon the house of Baaslia, and aftor four yoars of civil war died by his own hand. All this is indeed appalling. The throne of the chosen people was possessed by men of depraved character who came into power by CQnspiracy and murder. After the death of Ziniri there was division even in the house of Israel, half of the people following Tibni, and half gathering to Omri. Victory, however, was with Omri, who for six years continued in courses of evil. He was succeeded by Ahab, who was a veritable incarnation of the forces of sin. He united Jezebel with himself in the actual throne of power. She was a woman of great strength of character, an appalling instance of the fact that a strong woman fallen is the most terrible thing in human failure. During this period there was hardly a ray of light, for although, as subsequent declarations reveal, a remnant still existed loyal to God, their testimony was overwhelmed by abounding wickedness.
With the appearance of Elijah the voice of the prophet was raised to that of national importance. From this point onward in the economy of the Divine government the prophet was superior to the king. Elijah appeared with startling and dramatic suddenness. Without apology, he declared himself the messenger of Jehovah, and at his word judgment fell upon the people. The story of the trial by fire on Carmel is full of majesty, and needs no comment. The lonely figure of Elijah is the centre of observation as with calm dignity he stood against the combined evils of a corrupt court and priesthood. His vindication by the answering fire of God was perfect. The slaughter of the prophets of Baal aroused the ire of Jezebel to such a degree that she sent a message full of fury to Elijah. The man who stood erect in the presence of such tremendous odds now fled for his life. Full of tenderness was the method of God with His overwrought and fearful servant. Attending first to his physical needs He then granted him a revelation of Himself. It was a new revelation by which Elijah found that God was in "the sound of gentle stillness." It is evident that from this time of the failure of his faith he was largely set aside. Once or twice only does he appear again in the narrative.
The rest of the book is occupied with the story of the downfall of Ahab. The first phase of it was public. Benhadad came in the pride of his arms against Samaria. By the voices of prophets Jehovah spoke to Ahab, who, acting under their direction, gained a complete victory over his enemies. In the very moment of triumph he failed by making a covenant with a man whom God had devoted to destruction. The next step was that of his sin in connection with the vineyard of Naboth. Elijah suddenly presented himself before the king, and in words that must have scorched his inner soul he pronounced upon him the terrible doom of his wrongdoing. The third and final movement in the downfall was that of his disobedience to the message of Micaiah. The arrow, shot at a venture so far as man was concerned, found its true mark. Thus ended the personal career of the worst man that ever occupied the throne of the chosen people.
Part A: THE PASSING OF DAVID - 1 Kings 1:1-2:11
A.1. The Rebellion of Adonijah - 1Kin. 1:1-1:37
A.2. The Crowning of Solomon - 1Kin. 1:38-1:53
A.3. The Last Charge and Death of David - 1Kin. 2:1-2:11
Part B: SOLOMON - 1 Kings 2:12-11:43
B.1. In all his Glory - 1Kin. 2:12-10:29
- Solomon and the Traitors - 2:12-2:46
- The first Divine appearing - 3:1-3:15
- The Greatness of Solomon - 3:16-4:34
- His Life Work: The Temple - 5:1-8:66
- The second Divine appearing - 9:1-9:9
- Material Magnificence - 9:10-10:29
B.2. The Passing of Glory - 1Kin. 11:1-11:43
- Degeneracy and Doom - 11:1-11:13
- Execution of Judgement - 11:14-11:43
Part C: DIVISION - 1 Kings 12:1-16:34
C.1. Rehoboam and Jeroboam - 1Kin. 12:1-14:31
- The Revolt of the ten Tribes - 12:1-12:33
- Warning to Jeroboam - 13:1-14:20
- Rehoboam's reign - 14:21-14:31
C.2. Kings of Judah - 1Kin. 15:1-15:24
C.3. Kings of Israel - 1Kin. 15:25-16:34
Part D: ELIJAH - 1 Kings 17:1-22:53
D.1. The Curse Pronounced - 1Kin. 17:1-17:24
D.2. The Judgement of Carmel - 1Kin. 18:1-18:46
D.3. Elijah in the Wilderness - 1Kin. 19:1-19:21
D.4. The Downfall of Ahab - 1Kin. 20:1-22:53
- Benhadad - 20:1-20:43
- Ahab and Naboth - 21:1-21:16
- Elijah pronouncing judgement - 21:17-21:29
- Micaiah's prediction and Ahab's death - 22:1-22:40
- The Kings of Israel and Judah - 22:41-22:53
Note: To the best of our knowledge we are of the understanding that the above material, being published in 1907 and freely available elsewhere on the internet in various formats, is in the public domain.