God chose Solomon to succeed David as king over the nation of Israel but he was ruling ‘the kingdom of the LORD (Yahweh)’ on God’s behalf (1 Chronicles 28:5). His reign commenced circa 971 BC and lasted for forty years (1 Kings 12:42). Solomon built the first temple at Jerusalem and his wealth and wisdom were exceptional (2 Chronicles 9:22). He had a peaceful reign with no wars involving neighbouring nations, but political problems arose that resulted in the division of the kingdom following Solomon’s death (1 Kings 12). The kingdom was divided into two, the kingdom of Judah that consisted of the two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, and the kingdom of Israel made up of the remaining ten tribes.
Following a fairly detailed record of Solomon’s reign, the two books of Kings briefly chronicle the main events relating to the kingdoms of Judah and Israel together with divinely inspired comments on the characters of their kings. The kings of Israel from first to last were bad and God used the Assyrians (Isaiah 10:5-6) to take the ten tribes into captivity, resulting in the kingdom ending in 721 BC. The kings of Judah were all of the line of David. There were a few good kings but the bad ones predominated and they and their subjects failed to heed the warnings of the prophets, until eventually God used the Babylonians to take them into captivity (2 Chronicles 36:15-19). The kingdom of Judah ended in 588 BC.
Sunday – 1 Kings 3
Solomon was relatively young when he came to the throne (v7) and he started off well by asking God for wisdom to rule wisely (v9). The wisdom given to Solomon (v12; compare 4:29-31) manifested itself in a number of areas: (a) exercising justice (e.g. v16-28), (b) sound administration, (c) political and economic policies and decisions, (d) the writing of proverbs and songs (4:32-34) and other wisdom literature, and (e) the ability to answer difficult questions (10:4).
In his proverbs he emphasises the importance of spiritual wisdom and exhorts young people to put a real effort into gaining the true wisdom that is based on the fear of the LORD (Proverbs 1:7; 4:1-8; 9:10). We should prayerfully seek to live our lives according to the principles of heavenly wisdom that are revealed to us in the pages of the Holy Scriptures (James 3:17).
Solomon’s marriage alliance with Pharaoh, king of Egypt, secured his southern border. Since Scripture does not condemn this, it is possible that he taught Pharaoh’s daughter the ways of the LORD. Later he married other foreign women who caused him to sin. Nehemiah commented on his failings in this area of his life (see Neh. 13:26-27). However, in the earlier part of his reign Solomon loved the LORD and followed the advice of his father David (v3). Since the temple had not yet been built, Solomon offered his sacrifices at Gibeon where the original tabernacle and altar of burnt offering used by Israel in the wilderness had been placed following its removal from Shiloh (Jer 7:12; 1 Chronicles 21:29).
Monday – 1 Kings 5
King David had provided his son, Solomon, with plans for the Temple that was to be built at Jerusalem, plans originally given by inspiration from God (1 Chronicles 28:19). David had also collected quite a lot of the materials needed for this project (1 Chronicles 22 and 28:9-19).
Hiram, king of Tyre, had established friendly relations with David when he became king (2 Samuel 5:11). This relationship continued in Solomon’s reign (verses 1 and 7). Hiram provided timber and craftsmen for preparing the timber that was needed for the temple. Stone masons from Gebal (v18), which was 100 Km north of Tyre, were also hired.
This chapter shows that Jews and Gentiles worked together to build Solomon’s temple. Gentiles will also contribute to the future temple that Jesus will build at Jerusalem (Isaiah 60:1-7; Haggai 2:7). The spiritual Temple founded on Christ contains both Jews and Gentiles who are able to contribute to its growth by preaching the good news of the kingdom of God to others (Ephesians 2:11-22; Galatians 3:26-29).
Tuesday – 1 Kings 12
Solomon had ignored God’s command that Israelites should not marry foreign women because they would turn them from a wholehearted worship of the one true God and attract them into idolatrous worship (Exodus 34:11-16). This is precisely what happened to Solomon because of his many foreign wives (1 Kings 11:1-8). God punished his sin by causing Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, to lead ten of the tribes into rebellion when Rehoboam became king on the death of Solomon. This left only two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, remaining loyal to the line of David. Rehoboam contributed to the division of the nation by his lack of wisdom (verses1-12). From this time forward the two parts of the nation are distinguished by the names Judah and Israel.
Rehoboam was the son of an Ammonite woman, and he allowed the people of Judah to introduce idolatrous practices similar to those of the original Canaanite inhabitants of the land ( 1 Kings 14:21-24). Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, also did great evil in making Israel to sin ( 1 Kings 12:25-33; 13:33; 14:14-16).
Wednesday – 1 Kings 17
Many in Israel had descended into Baal worship, encouraged by king Ahab and his Sidonian wife Jezebel (1 Kings 16:29-33). Jezebel had made a deliberate attempt to destroy all the prophets of the LORD (Yahweh) (18:4), but a remnant of the people remained faithful to the God of Israel (19:18).
Israel had been warned that disobedience to God’s laws would bring severe consequences, including drought (Deut 28:23-24). Elijah prayed for a drought to come upon the land (James 5:17-18) and God responded to Elijah’s prayer. Elijah warned Ahab that there would be neither rain nor dew until he himself should declare an end to the drought (v1). Punishment by drought was designed to turn Israel back to Yahweh from Baal worship. Baal was shown to be powerless and unable to send rain though he was supposed to be the storm-god, who provided fertility and rain.
The lack of dew was also a serious matter as certain areas of cultivation depended on it and the usual period of drought from May to October was often mitigated with heavy dews. Consequently dew was considered a blessing from God (Gen 27:28 and Deut 33:28). Some places in Israel may have as many as 250 nights of dew in a year. Dew was largely responsible for the growth of grapes during the dry period. It condensed on the surface of heaps of rocks placed around the base of vines and trees in the more arid regions so that it would percolate down to their roots.
Elijah’s miracles confirmed him as a true prophet of Yahweh. It is interesting to note that it was in the land of Sidon, the very place renowned for its Baal worship, that a Gentile woman is brought to confess that it is Yahweh, the God of Israel, who is the God of Truth (v24).
Thursday – 1 Kings 18
God’s response to Elijah’s prayer for divine fire to consume the burnt offering, even though both sacrifice and fuel were soaked with water, was most impressive (verse 36-37). Those Israelites watching were convinced that Yahweh was indeed the true God, calling out ‘Yahweh, he is God’. This echoes the meaning of Elijah’s name, ‘My God is Yahweh’.
The slaughter of the 400 prophets of Baal at the brook Kishon aroused the wrath of Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, who swore that she would have Elijah killed (19:1-2).
The people having confessed a belief in Yahweh, the God of Israel, Elijah prayed fervently for the drought to end (verses 42-44 compare James 5:16-18). However, the events of this chapter were only a temporary set back to idolatry, for the evil influence of Jezebel continued and Ahaziah, Ahab’s son, worshipped Baal like his father and mother (22:52-53). Later, Jehu wiped out Baal worship, though other forms of idolatry continued (2 Kings 10:18-29).
Friday – 2 Kings 5
Because of their continued wickedness, God punished the Israelites by allowing the surrounding nations to attack them. At this time the Syrians had gained ascendancy over the nation of Israel (v1).
The captive Israelite maid obviously regarded her master and mistress favourably and took the opportunity to preach about the only true God whose miraculous power to heal was available through his prophet Elisha. The great faith of the maid in Elisha’s healing power is apparent when we note that Elisha had healed no other lepers (Luke 4:25-27). Her faith contrasted greatly with the lack of faith shown by the king of Israel (verses 7-8).
To be healed of his leprosy, Naaman needed to put away his pride and humbly obey the instructions given by Elisha. All he had to do was to ‘wash and be clean’. We should draw an important lesson from this event. For us a leper becomes a picture of a person dying from the effects of sin in his nature. To be cleansed from the effects of sin and receive forgiveness we must be baptised into Jesus Christ so as to become clothed with his righteousness. In the Bible we are instructed to do this by being immersed (buried) in water (Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:4). It is important for us to obey God and follow the example of Jesus if we wish to be saved from sin and death (Matt 3:13-16).
Saturday – 2 Chronicles 36
This chapter briefly chronicles the final decline of the nation of Judah in the hands of corrupt rulers following the reign of the godly king Josiah (see chapters 34 and 35). Jeremiah (36:12) was the main prophet in the land of Judah during this period while Ezekiel was another important prophet who prophesied to the exiles in Babylonia (Ezekiel 1:1-3).
God used the Babylonians to punish the people of Judah for disobeying His laws and not heeding the warnings of His prophets (36:15-17). He declared that he would remove His people from the land and that it would have rest from their wickedness for seventy years (v21; Jeremiah 29:10).
The Babylonian army destroyed Solomon’s temple and broke down the walls of Jerusalem (v19) and King Nebuchadnezzar took most of the surviving people into exile to Babylon (v20; compare 2 Kings chapters 24 and 25). The number of exiles removed by Nebuchadnezzar in three invasions amounted to 4,600 (Jeremiah 52:28-30). The other survivors went down into Egypt (Jeremiah 43:4-7). The exiles remained in the land of Babylon until they and their descendants were given the opportunity to return when the Persian Empire replaced that of Babylonia (verses 22-23).