In the Hebrew Bible both The First Book of Kings and The Second Book of Kings were part of a single scroll and formed the single book of Kings. This material was split into two parts in the Greek Septuagint translation, and in the Latin Vulgate translation, and in its time the KJV made the same division. As the alternate titles in the KJV show, these books were also sometimes also called 3 and 4 Kings in editions that refer to 1 and 2 Samuel as 1 and 2 Kings. These two books together record, at least in summary fashion, the Israelite history from the final years of King David down to the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem and the deportation of the royal family and the Judean leadership groups into exile in Babylonia.
First Kings begins with the intense succession struggle among David's sons. Solomon, his child by Bathsheba, emerges as his successor and the book then chronicles the reign of Solomon. The narration gives examples of his famed wisdom, his many foreign alliances, and his enormous construction projects, especially that for a grand temple to replace the now antique portable tabernacle. Solomon's prayer at the temple's dedication (8.22-61) is brilliant. Solomon acknowledges that, while he has built this temple as a dwelling place for God, God's true “home” is in the heavens and even the heavens are not big enough to contain God. He is well aware that this temple with all its symbolism and grandeur will never “contain” God but will simply be a holy place where people can come into the presence of God. As the narration reveals the glories of Solomon's reign the reader might assume that all was wonderful in the realm of this wise and wealthy king. But 1 Kings provides hints concerning the enormous costs for supplying and running the royal court (4.1-28) and of his much loathed use of forced labor on his building projects (9.15,23). Largely as the result of alliances he entered into, Solomon is said to have married seven hundred princesses and to have provided them with worship places for the deities they brought with them. In doing so, the narrator reports, Solomon himself was led astray from God. With all of this lurking underneath the glittering surface of his reign, it is little wonder that the ten northern tribes were ready to secede when he died.
Beginning at chapter 12, First Kings begins to report on the revolt of the northern tribes. They formed their own kingdom, calling it Israel, and chose Jeroboam as the first king. Solomon's son, Rehoboam, was left with the kingdom (and tribal region) of Judah in the south. From this point on, the history recorded in 1 and 2 Kings will follow both these kingdoms until the demise of Israel by Assyrian conquest in 722 b.c. and of Judah by Babylonia in 586 b.c. The last part of 1 Kings includes a narrative cycle about the activities of the influential prophet Elijah. The book concludes with the death of the northern king, Ahab.
The Intrigues to Succeed David as King over All Israel (1.1—2.12)
Solomon Becomes King (2.13-46)
Solomon's Early Years, His Wisdom and Prosperity (3.1—4.34)
The Construction of the Great Temple in Jerusalem (5.1—8.66)
Solomon's Troubled Later Years (9.1—11.43)
The Northern Ten Tribes Secede and the Kingdom Is Divided (12.1—14.20)
The Kings of Judah (South) and Israel (North) (14.21—16.34)
The Prophet Elijah and His Activities (17.1—19.21)
King Ahab of Israel (20.1—22.53)
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