The Books of 1 and 2 Kings introduce us to the study of theology through what is primarily narrative. 1 Kings includes administrative records (ch. 4), letters (ch. 5), building descriptions (ch. 6-7), and prayers (ch. 8), but the larger context remains the narratives of the royal houses of Judah in the south and of Israel in the north and of the divine engagement with those houses through the prophets. They extend from the last days of David until the coming of the destruction of the two kingdoms, with Judah surviving the longest, until the Babylonian invasion and destruction of 587/586 BC. In examining this fascinating account of the history of Israel’s monarchy, the reader will benefit by looking for the following themes.

The Sovereign God

The foremost theme in these two biblical books concerns the reign of the single God of Israel who is sovereign over them and Creator of the world. He requires sole loyalty and worship. The story of Kings is the account of the manner in which rulers and prophets succeeded and failed in this requirement. Focal points in the sovereignty of God and the response of others include the failure of Solomon in 1 Kings 11, the conflict with the false god Baal worshipped by Queen Jezebel and King Ahab (1 Kings 18), and the destruction of the Northern kingdom of Israel in 2 Kings 17.

Despite King Solomon’s faithfulness toward God in requesting a listening heart (1 Kings 3) and God’s gift to him of great wisdom, wealth, and political power; Solomon’s many marriages (probably diplomatic moves to secure power in a human manner) to foreign wives turn his heart toward other gods and their worship. Consequently, God sent his prophet to declare that Solomon’s successors would lose the empire and most of the original land of Israel, preserving only the tribal territory of Judah (the tribe of David and the dynasty in Jerusalem) and of Benjamin.

1 Kings 18 emphasized the great contest between hundreds of the prophets of Baal, supported by Ahab and the royal house of Israel, and the single prophet Elijah, supported only by the true God. The victory, after each side was called on their deity to send fire from heaven and consume the sacrifice, belonged to Elijah. Following the divine fire came a great rainstorm that ended the years of drought and gave the people hope for a great harvest and the blessing of abundance after starvation conditions. The slaughter of the priests of Baal demonstrated the uncompromising nature of God’s covenant relation with his people.