God’s lessons from history
An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on the Book of 1 Kings
This commentary has been through Advanced Checking.
Words in boxes are from the Bible. In the Bible text, words in [ ] are part of the Bible text. Words in ( ) are explanations.
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
About the Books of 1 Kings and 2 Kings
We do not know who wrote the books. Some people say that Jeremiah did. He lived just before Jerusalem’s enemies overcame the city. 2 Kings 24:18-25:30 is the same as Jeremiah chapter 52. There is nothing about Jeremiah in the books of 1 Kings and 2 Kings. However, Jeremiah went to Egypt. 2 Kings ends with the events in Babylon. An unknown *prophet in Babylon probably wrote both 1 Kings and 2 Kings.
The writer or writers used a lot of information from other books. These books probably included Isaiah, Jeremiah and Chronicles. The book refers to an unknown book called the ‘Book of the acts of Solomon.’ It also mentions the ‘Books of the chronicles of the kings of *Israel and *Judah’. (A chronicle is a record of events in the order in which they happened.) It also uses collections of stories about the *prophets Elijah, Elisha, Micaiah and Isaiah.
The author gave a message. He did not just write history. He follows what the Book of Deuteronomy taught. Deuteronomy contains God’s law for his people. It directs how they should live. But most of the kings in *Judah and *Israel did not obey these instructions. (In fact, none of the kings in the northern *kingdom (called *Israel) were good kings.) And when the kings were evil, most of the people in their *kingdoms became evil too.
For example, the Book of Deuteronomy explains how the people should *worship God. But most kings and most people did not want to *worship the real God. They preferred to *worship images of false gods. Much of this evil *worship had a relationship with sex. People believed that such gods would give them large families and successful farms. And agriculture was very important in *Judah and *Israel.
So the kings and the people neglected the *worship of the real God. But there were important exceptions. *Judah had some good kings. And these kings had a good effect on their entire nation. In fact, Hilkiah the chief priest rediscovered the Book of Deuteronomy in the *Temple when Josiah was king (2 Kings chapter 22). Then Josiah stopped the *worship of false gods. He taught the people to obey God. And Josiah himself obeyed God completely. But Josiah’s son would be an evil king.
Deuteronomy taught the people about God’s laws. God intended his people to obey his laws and his *covenant. He intended that they would make his *worship pure. If they did, they would receive *blessing. If not, they would suffer a terrible punishment (Deuteronomy chapter 28).
The Books of 1 Kings and 2 Kings tell us about a period of nearly 400 years. This was from the time when David died to the *exile in Babylon. In 930 *B.C. (years before Christ) the *kingdom divided into two parts. This happened after the death of Solomon. This is the most important event in the book.
There is more about the northern kings (*Israel) than about the southern kings (*Judah.) The author writes a great deal about the kings who affected the religion of the country. He does not say much about the other kings. For example, he says a lot about Ahab who made people *worship *Baal. He says very little about Ahab’s father Omri, who was a much better king.
The author also says a lot about the *prophets, in particular Elijah and Elisha. He explains why God allowed his people to go into *exile. The book speaks badly about the people in the northern *kingdom. They did not give honour to God at Jerusalem. The kings of the southern *kingdom either obeyed or did not obey the laws in Deuteronomy. The book’s opinion of them depends on what they did.
The dates in 1 Kings and 2 Kings
The books describe the history of the kings and queens of *Israel and *Judah. They begin with the last days of David. They include Jeroboam’s revolution, when the *kingdom became divided. And they end with the *exile in Babylon.
After the *kingdom divided, the author writes about each part of the *kingdom in turn.
For example, he describes the rule of a king of *Judah. Then he describes the rule of the king of *Israel. He tells us in which year of one king’s rule the other king’s rule begins. Sometimes these numbers do not match. There are various reasons:
· Sometimes they count the year that a king began to rule as a complete year. In fact, he may have begun his rule part of the way through the year.
· Sometimes two kings ruled at the same time. For example, Uzziah became ill. Then his son ruled while he was still alive.
· Also, the northern and southern *kingdoms began their years in different months. The northern *kingdom began its year in the month called Nisan (March/April.) The southern *kingdom began its year in the month called Tishri (September/October.)
For kings of *Israel, the author adds the name of the capital city where he ruled. He then says how long that king ruled. He also says what that king was like.
For the kings of *Judah, the author mentions the age at which each king started to rule. He also mentions the name of the queen mother (that is, the mother of the king). He tells us if the king obeyed God’s law. And he compares that king with David.
Plan of the Books
1 Kings 1:1-2:46 – The last days of David and how Solomon became king
1:1-53 The struggle for power
2:1-12 David gives advice to Solomon. The death of David
2:13-46 Solomon becomes king and he makes himself strong.
1 Kings 3:1-11:43 – The rule of Solomon
3:1-28 Solomon’s wisdom
4:1-34 Solomon’s government and his riches
5:1-7:51 Solomon builds his *temple and his palace.
8:1-66 Solomon gives the *temple to God.
9:1-28 God answers Solomon’s prayer. Solomon’s buildings and trade
10:1-29 The visit of the Queen of Sheba
11:1-43 Solomon loses much of his power and then he dies.
1 Kings 12:1-14:31 – The *kingdom divides
12:1-24 Rehoboam becomes king after Solomon.
12:25-33 Jeroboam *rebels and he persuades the northern *tribes to support him.
13:1-32 Jeroboam appoints priests. A *prophet warns him about *disaster.
13:33-14:20 Ahijah warns Jeroboam’s wife about *disaster. Jeroboam dies.
14:21-31 Egypt attacks Rehoboam. Rehoboam dies.
1 Kings 15:1-16:28 – The wars between *Israel and *Judah
15:1-8 Abijam, king of *Judah
15:9-24 Asa, king of *Judah
15:25-32 Nadab, king of *Israel
15:33-16:7 Baasha, king of *Israel
16:8-14 Elah, king of *Israel
16:15-20 Zimri, king of *Israel
16:21-28 Omri, king of *Israel
1 Kings 16:29 - 2 Kings 1:18 – Ahab and Elijah
16:29-34 Ahab, king of *Israel
17:1-19:21 God provides for Elijah when there is no rain. Elijah opposes Ahab on *Mount Carmel. Elijah runs away. Elijah appoints Elisha.
20:1-43 Ahab defeats the king of Syria and then makes *peace with him.
21:1-29 Ahab and Naboth’s *vineyard
22:1-40 Ahab’s final war with Syria
22:41 - 2 Kings 1:18 Elijah *challenges Ahaziah.
2 Kings 2:1-10:36 – Stories about Elisha
2:1-25 God takes Elijah to heaven. Elisha becomes a *prophet in his place.
3:1-27 The war with Moab
4:1- 8:15 Elisha’s *miracles
8:16-24 Jehoram, king of *Judah
8:25-29 Ahaziah, king of *Judah
9:1-10:36 Jehu’s revolution. Elisha makes him king. Jehu kills Joram, Ahaziah and Jezebel and the family of Ahab. He removes the *worship of *Baal.
2 Kings 11:1-17:41 – From Jehu’s revolution to the end of the northern *kingdom
11:1-20 Athaliah, queen of *Judah
11:21-12:21 Joash, king of *Judah; Joash repairs the *temple.
13:1-9 Jehoahaz, king of *Israel
13:10-13 Jehoash, king of *Israel
13:14-25 The death of Elisha
14:1-22 Amaziah, king of *Judah
14:23-29 Jeroboam II, king of *Israel
15:1-7 Azariah (Uzziah), king of *Judah
15:8-31 Revolutions in *Israel
15:32-38 Jotham, king of *Judah
16:1-20 Ahaz, king of *Judah
17:1-41 Assyria *captures the Northern *Kingdom. The author explains why it happened.
2 Kings 18:1-21:26 – *Judah and Assyria
18:1-12 Hezekiah, king of *Judah
18:13-19:37 Sennacherib attacks Jerusalem.
20:1-21 God cures Hezekiah. Hezekiah makes a foolish friendship with Babylon. He dies.
21:1-18 Manasseh, king of *Judah
21:19-26 Amon, king of *Judah
2 Kings 22:1-23:30 – The good changes that Josiah made
22:1-20 Josiah repairs the *temple. Someone discovers the book of the law.
23:1-30 Josiah’s improvements and his death
2 Kings 23:31-25:30 – The last years of *Judah
23:31-35 Jehoahaz, king of *Judah goes into *exile in Egypt
23:36-24:7 Jehoiakim, king of *Judah. The rulers of Babylon take control of *Judah for the first time.
24:8-17 Jehoiachin, king of *Judah. The rulers of Babylon take control of *Judah for the second time.
24:18-25:7 Zedekiah, king of *Judah. Soldiers from Babylon take the people from *Judah into *exile.
25:8-30 Soldiers from Babylon destroy Jerusalem. The *exile.
How Solomon became king
Solomon would become king after his father, David. But this did not happen easily. Two of Solomon’s older brothers also tried to become king. First, Absalom tried to become king by force (2 Samuel chapter 15). His plan failed and he died. So Adonijah made his plans carefully. He waited until David was very old and weak. Then Adonijah found important people who would support him. He intended to appoint himself as king, even before David was dead.
But David was still alive. And he was still the king. The staff in the palace were still loyal to him. And only David could act to prevent the success of Adonijah’s plans.
David was now about 70 years old. His servants still respected him as the king. So they did not just choose any woman to carry out this task. They selected a woman who was fit to be a queen. They searched across the whole country to find her. In the end, they chose Abishag to be David’s nurse. She looked after the king. But he was too old and weak to have sex with her. People believed that to keep someone warm in that way was a good medical way to look after that person.
Adonijah, the fourth son of David decided to become king. He was very handsome. Absalom, one of Adonijah’s brothers had killed his older brother Amnon. And Joab had killed Absalom. We do not know what happened to his other brother. Adonijah was the oldest son who was still alive. Therefore, he thought that he should become king. He made plans. His intentions were clear. Our translation mentions the 50 men who would protect him. But these men were not merely guards. In the original language, the book says that they would run ahead of him. In other words, they would declare him to be king.
It seems that David heard about these plans. But David did nothing to prevent them. Probably David felt too weak to stop the plot. And Adonijah had already become very powerful.
Adonijah knew that his father would die soon. So Adonijah made plans for a ceremony where he would declare himself to be the new king. Joab and Abiathar joined him. In past times, they had helped David. They did not ask God what they should do. Perhaps they did not care what God wanted them to do. Perhaps Abiathar was angry because Zadok was chief priest. Perhaps Joab was angry because Benaiah was important in the army.
Joab had been the loyal captain of David’s army. But Joab was always a selfish and cruel man. David allowed Joab to be powerful because he (David) could not control Joab (2 Samuel 3:39). Like Adonijah, Joab’s ambitions were very strong. Neither man cared about God’s plans. They always chose to follow their own plans.
Many of David’s men did not support Adonijah. Adonijah arranged a *religious meal. He probably burnt the fat of the animals and shared the meat with his guests. He did this to encourage other people to support him. He offered *sacrifices to God. People would then think that he wanted to serve God. He did not invite Solomon, Nathan or Benaiah. Some people think that he intended to kill them later.
Nathan warned Bathsheba about the danger. He realised that Adonijah might kill both her and Solomon. Therefore, he advised Bathsheba to tell the king what Adonijah was doing. He would then come in. He would tell David that her story was true. Nathan knew that God wanted Solomon to be king.
Nathan was an important *prophet. When Solomon was born, God sent a special message to David by means of Nathan. God had chosen Solomon for a special purpose (2 Samuel 12:24-25).
Somehow, Nathan realised that Adonijah’s plans were wrong. Perhaps God had spoken to Nathan. Perhaps Nathan remembered the message that God gave him at Solomon’s birth. Or perhaps Nathan realised that Adonijah’s attitudes were wrong. Adonijah did not respect his father. And Adonijah did not respect God’s special plans for Solomon’s life.
So Nathan sent Bathsheba to David. David was weak. He would find an official meeting difficult. But Bathsheba, whom David still loved, could persuade David to act. Even in his weak state, he still had complete authority as king. His commands would be enough to stop Adonijah’s plot.
Bathsheba immediately went to the king. She showed him great honour. Then she reminded him about his promise to make Solomon king after him. She told him what Adonijah had done. Adonijah did not want Solomon to become king. The fact that he had not invited Solomon to the ceremony showed that.
In fact, she explained, Adonijah was already acting as king. And Adonijah had plans to kill both Solomon and Bathsheba. Then nobody would have any reason to oppose him.
But now, the people in *Israel were waiting. They were waiting to see what would happen. They still respected David’s authority. They wanted to know whether David would allow Adonijah to become king.
So Bathsheba asked David to act immediately. He could declare Solomon to be the next king. And David’s officials could appoint Solomon immediately. They did not need to wait for David’s death. Solomon could begin his rule at once.
Nathan told David what had happened. The crowds had shouted. ‘We pray that King Adonijah will live for a long time.’ They did this as if David was already dead. Nathan asked David a question. Had he announced that Adonijah would be king? He knew that this would make David angry. Therefore, David would act quickly. David immediately called for Bathsheba. He promised her that Solomon would be king. David would not delay. He would act at once to perform his promise.
David ordered Zadok, Nathan and Benaiah to make Solomon king immediately. Benaiah agreed with this. He believed that God wanted Solomon to be king. He wanted God to say so! He prayed that God would *bless Solomon’s rule. He prayed that Solomon’s rule would be even greater than David’s rule. By human standards, Solomon’s rule was greater. By *spiritual standards, it was not. Jesus was the son of David who had the best *spiritual rule.
Zadok, Nathan and Benaiah went down together with the men called Kerethites and Pelethites to Gihon. The Kerethites and Pelethites were special guards who came from Crete and from Philistia. They were soldiers whom people paid to protect the king. Zadok took the *holy oil from the tent that David had erected in Jerusalem. (The *Covenant Box was in this tent.) He poured this oil on Solomon’s head and all the people shouted with joy.
This special ceremony with the oil is called an ‘anointing’. It showed how God’s Spirit was acting to appoint Solomon as the king (1 Samuel 10:1; 1 Samuel 16:12-13). Adonijah was trying to appoint himself as the king. But God, by his Spirit, appointed Solomon. Jesus has the name ‘Christ’, which means: ‘He who has received the anointing’. See Acts 10:38.
Solomon received this anointing at the same time as Adonijah’s guests were finishing their party.
Zadok made Solomon king before Adonijah and his guests had finished their large meal. Joab was very afraid when he heard the sound of the *trumpet. Adonijah thought that Jonathan had come with good news. Instead Jonathan told him that Zadok and Nathan had made Solomon king. Solomon had ridden on the king’s *mule. This was a clear *sign that he was now king. He also sat on the king’s royal seat. King David was glad that Solomon was king. Now Adonijah knew that he would not become king.
Adonijah’s guests left quickly. They were afraid that people would punish them. This was because they had helped Adonijah. Adonijah went to hold the corners of the *altar. Exodus 21:14 says that a person would be safe there. However, that was only true if they had not intended to kill someone.
Although Adonijah intended to kill Solomon, Adonijah was not yet guilty of murder. But Adonijah was guilty of other crimes. He had not respected his father, David. Instead, Adonijah had even plotted a revolution against him. David and Solomon were kings whom God had appointed. So when Adonijah tried to appoint himself to be king, he was acting against God. So Adonijah was plotting to destroy God’s purposes.
Adonijah’s actions were terrible, but Solomon decided not to make a judgement about Adonijah’s crimes. Instead, Solomon was wise. He made a sensible political decision. He knew that many people liked Adonijah. So Solomon simply told Adonijah that he must be loyal. If Adonijah obeyed, he would not die.
It is interesting to compare this situation with our *forgiveness in Christ. Solomon did not really forgive Adonijah. But Solomon gave Adonijah the opportunity to avoid punishment. However, Jesus promises us complete *forgiveness and *mercy if we put our trust in him. We must also be loyal to him. 2 Timothy 2:12-13 says, ‘But we must not say that we do not know Christ. Because then he will also say that he does not know us. If we turn away from him, he will never turn away from us. He cannot do anything that is against his own nature.’ Hebrews 3:14 says, ‘We are partners with Christ, if we trust him to the end. We must trust him to the end, as we did at first.’
David’s instructions to Solomon
Solomon was now the king. But before David died, he gave some special instructions to Solomon. David told Solomon to respect God and to obey his laws. That is a very important lesson for anyone who has authority. A king might make laws for other people to follow. But even a king must obey God’s laws.
David is telling Solomon what to do after he dies. Solomon must obey the laws of God that Moses wrote in the Book of Deuteronomy. If Solomon did so, then he would succeed. God had promised David that his *descendants would rule *Israel. This would only happen if they obeyed all his commands.
In the ancient world, kings did not just lead the government. They were also the chief judges in their *kingdoms. Fair judgements in the law courts are essential in any country.
David had been a good king. But he was aware that, sometimes, he had not been a good judge. In particular, there were two men whom he ought to have punished. But he was too weak to punish them. And there was one family that deserved special honour. David felt that he had not sufficiently rewarded that family.
David had not been able to carry out these judgements himself. But he saw that Solomon would be a wise king. The beginning of Solomon’s rule would be a good opportunity to act.
David told Solomon that he should kill Joab and Shimei. These were powerful men who had done evil things. But they had managed to avoid punishment.
Joab had killed Abner (2 Samuel chapter 3) and Amasa (2 Samuel chapter 20). He had pretended to be their friend. Afterwards, he wore the belt and shoes that had stains of blood on them. This showed that he was not sorry for his actions. Also, he was not afraid of any punishment. David should have killed Joab himself, but David was not bold enough to do so. David told Solomon that he should kill Joab.
Barzillai was a very old man who gave food to David and his army. David tells Solomon to help Barzillai’s family as a reward. Perhaps Barzillai himself was dead.
Shimei *cursed and threw stones at David. That was when David ran away from Absalom. Kings usually killed people who *cursed them. Shimei later asked David to forgive him. David promised that he would not kill him (2 Samuel chapter 19). It seems that David considered his promise to be unwise. Shimei deserved punishment. David told Solomon that he should kill Shimei. David did not want Solomon to punish Shimei because of what Shimei had done to David personally. But it was God who appointed David to be the king. So a *curse on the king was like a *curse on God. Solomon must punish Shimei.
They buried David in his own city after he had ruled *Israel for 40 years. He achieved many things during his life. He loved God with his whole heart. He was a great king.
Adonijah wanted to marry Abishag. She had been like David’s mistress. But now David was dead. Abishag was a beautiful young widow.
However, Adonijah had another reason for his request. If he married David’s widow, Adonijah would have the right to be king. There was an ancient custom that a new king had the right to marry the former king’s wives. But God’s law did not allow this.
Adonijah hoped that Bathsheba would help him. He pretended to be pleased that Solomon was king. Adonijah would marry Abishag although he was not king. It was surprising that Bathsheba was happy about his request. She probably did not realise that such a marriage would affect Solomon’s authority. Perhaps she thought that it was a good solution. Perhaps she thought that she was helping Solomon. Adonijah might respect Solomon more, if Solomon was kind to him.
Solomon gave Bathsheba the place of honour at his right side. She did not seem to have understood the meaning of Adonijah’s request. Solomon did, however. He immediately ordered Benaiah to kill Adonijah. Solomon would not be safe as long as Adonijah lived.
Probably, Solomon did not want to kill his brother. But Solomon saw that Adonijah would never be loyal to him. So Solomon had to act in a firm manner.
Sometimes as Christians, we too must act in a firm manner. In particular, we must make a firm decision not to allow *sin to control our lives. In Romans 8:13, Paul says this: ‘If you follow your *sinful character you will die. But if by the *Spirit you kill the *sins of the body you will live.’ We must make God the ruler of our lives. Our *sinful character must not rule our lives.
Both Abiathar and Joab had helped Adonijah. Solomon only sent Abiathar home. He did not kill him. This was because Abiathar had helped David in his troubles. He had also been a priest to him. Solomon knew that he must respect God’s priests. However, God had told Eli that his sons would no longer be priests. This was because of their *sins (1 Samuel chapter 2). Abiathar was the last priest from the family of Eli. The new priests were from Zadok’s family.
Joab held on to the corners of the *altar. He thought that he would be safe there. Solomon did not kill Adonijah at the time when he went to the *altar for protection (1:51-53). Perhaps Joab hoped that Solomon would be unwilling to kill anyone at such a *holy place. But Joab’s support for Adonijah was not his only crime. The *altar did not protect those who had murdered other people. David did not order Solomon to kill Joab because of his (Joab’s) support for Adonijah. David ordered Solomon to kill Joab because Joab was a murderer.
So Solomon carried out his father’s orders and he made *peace for himself and his family. Now nobody would say that David and his family supported Joab’s murders.
Joab believed that to hold the *altar would keep him safe. He was wrong. The Christian who trusts Christ for *forgiveness will be safe. He will enjoy God’s *peace now and for always.
Solomon ordered Shimei to stay in his own house in Jerusalem. However, when two of his slaves ran away, Shimei left Jerusalem. He found them in Gath and he brought them back. When Solomon heard about this event, he sent for Shimei. He told him that he would punish him. This punishment was also for what he had done to Solomon’s father David. So Benaiah killed Shimei. Solomon said that God would *bless King Solomon. The *curse that Shimei had put upon David could have no effect (2 Samuel 16:7-8).
David knew that Solomon would need wisdom to deal with Shimei. If Solomon had killed Shimei at once, Solomon would have seemed cruel. And Solomon would seem to be acting without honour. David had promised that Shimei would live. So Solomon, who was David’s son, should continue to perform that promise.
Solomon dealt with Shimei in a similar manner to how he dealt with Adonijah. Solomon did not punish either man immediately. Instead, he tested them to see whether they were loyal. So Solomon asked Shimei to promise not to leave Jerusalem. Shimei promised this in the *Lord’s name. So the promise was a sacred, serious promise. But Shimei did not *keep that promise. To *break such a promise was a serious crime. Shimei deserved his punishment.
God speaks to Solomon
Solomon married Pharaoh’s daughter. This was probably a political arrangement. Solomon was a skilled politician. The Pharaohs were the most powerful kings in the region. This marriage meant that *Israel would be at peace with Egypt. However, it was against God’s law for Solomon to marry a foreigner. In the end, Solomon would suffer many troubles because of such marriages.
Pharaoh gave the town called Gezer to Solomon. (See chapter 9:16.) This gave Solomon control of some routes for trade. This would help him to get the materials that he needed for the new buildings in Jerusalem. The princess lived in the old city at Jerusalem. Solomon built her palace 20 years later.
There ought to have been only one place where people went to offer *sacrifices (Leviticus 17:3-4). However, Solomon and other people offered *sacrifices on high hills. Many of these places were where people had *sacrificed to other gods. This was wrong. Solomon did not always obey the commands in the Book of Deuteronomy. The tent of meeting that Moses had made was at Gibeon. God allowed Solomon to *worship there. Solomon showed his love for God by means of a special, large *sacrifice.
After Solomon had given honour to God, God spoke to him in a dream. In reply, Solomon reminded God of his kindness to David and to himself. He recognised that he did not have much experience. (He was probably about 20 years old.) He knew that *Israel was a large nation. He therefore asked God to give him wisdom. Then he would make the right decisions when he ruled the nation.
Solomon was already a wise man (chapter 2:9). And he was a skilled politician (verse 1). That is, he had both human wisdom and political wisdom. But here, he was asking God for something more. He did not want his decisions to be merely the result of his natural wisdom. He wanted to have *spiritual wisdom. Our translation says ‘wisdom’ in verse 9. In the original language, the words are ‘a heart that hears’. Solomon wanted to hear from God. Then, like David his father, Solomon would do what God wanted him to do.
God was pleased that Solomon asked for wisdom rather than wealth. Because of that, God knew that he could trust Solomon with wealth as well. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus said, ‘Search for God’s *kingdom. Learn what he wants you to do. He will provide you with all the other things.’
God gave Solomon wisdom because he asked for it. He gave him wealth because he did not ask for it. God promised Solomon a long life if he obeyed God’s commands. But Solomon did not do this. As a result, he died when he was only 60 years old.
After his dream, Solomon went back to Jerusalem and he gave honour to God. He also *celebrated with his officials.
This story gives an example of Solomon’s wisdom. It is evidence that God answered Solomon’s prayer. Solomon does not merely show human wisdom here. It seemed impossible to decide who was the real mother. Both women seemed to be arguing the same thing. But God showed Solomon what to do. So Solomon knew that the real mother would love the child. She would not want to see someone kill it. She would rather let the other mother have it. This event shows that God was directing Solomon’s judgements.
This judgement impressed the whole nation. They saw that God had given wisdom to their king.
Paul prayed that God might give the Christians at Ephesus the *spirit of wisdom (Ephesians 1:17). James said, ‘Anyone who does not have wisdom should ask God.’ He also said, ‘The wisdom that comes from heaven is in the first place pure. It loves *peace. It is gentle and friendly. It cares about other people. It does good actions’ (James 1:5; 3:17).
Solomon’s peaceful *kingdom
This chapter shows how successful Solomon’s rule was. The country was wealthy. It was at peace. The farms were successful. Food and drink were plentiful. People lived good lives. Other nations respected Solomon. Some of those nations paid taxes to him.
The Bible said that people will know such a good and peaceful time again. This will happen when Jesus returns to this world. See Isaiah chapter 55. But, of course, Solomon’s rule was not perfect. Jesus’ rule will be perfect. And it will continue beyond the end of time.
Many of these people were officials when David was king. We are not sure if ‘Nathan’ was the *prophet or Nathan the son of David. Unlike his son Rehoboam (see chapter 12), Solomon took advice from men who had experience.
The districts were not quite the same as the territories of the *tribes. This may be to make sure that each district could produce enough food. However, this may have been one of the events that caused the *kingdom to divide. Note that some of these officials had married into Solomon’s family.
These verses show Solomon’s wealth and the size of the country that he ruled. Psalm 72 speaks about his rule, especially in verses 8-11. That Psalm is also a *prophecy about Jesus’ rule.
Solomon ruled over the entire land that God promised to Abraham. He was the only king to do this. A large number of people lived in his country. Each family had its own home. Everyone had plenty to eat. It was a time of *peace. Rulers of the countries near him paid him taxes and they obeyed him. Some people say that the rule of Solomon is a physical image of the *spiritual rule of Jesus.
The writer describes the greatness of Solomon’s wisdom. He was wiser than people from the countries that were famous for their wisdom. Ethan wrote Psalm 89. We do not know who the other people in verse 31 were. (However, a family with the same names appears in 1 Chronicles 2:6.) Clearly, these people were famous for their wisdom at that time. A proverb is a short sentence that helps people to remember a wise truth. Some of Solomon’s proverbs are in the Book of Proverbs in the Bible. The Song of Solomon is the only one of his songs that we have today. Many of his proverbs are about plants and animals. People came from near and far to hear his wisdom.
Paul says this (in Colossians 2:3). ‘All the valuable things of wisdom and knowledge are in Christ.’ Jesus said about himself that ‘someone greater than Solomon is here’ (Matthew 12:42).
Hiram assists Solomon
Solomon’s first task as king was the construction of the *temple at Jerusalem. This would be a splendid building to give honour to the *Lord. It would be the only proper place for *worship. And it would replace the tent of meeting that Moses made.
Solomon also had great plans of his own. He would build great palaces and halls in Jerusalem. He would make Jerusalem into a very rich city.
To carry out all these plans, Solomon needed a good supply of fine wood and stone. And he would need thousands of workmen. Solomon used his political skills to make the necessary arrangements.
Hiram had helped David before Solomon was born. Tyre was an important port on the coast to the north of *Israel. Hiram had helped David to build his palace. He had given him wood and he sent men to help him. God did not allow David to build a *temple. But he promised him that his son would build it (1 Chronicles 22:8-10). Solomon asked Hiram for help. He promised to pay him for this help.
Hiram agreed to do what Solomon had asked. In addition, he would send the wood by sea, probably to the port called Jaffa. There, Solomon’s men could take it over land to Jerusalem. Solomon supplied Hiram’s men with food as payment. The two kings made a *peace agreement.
Solomon arranged men to carry out the work. He shared the work among the men in a fair manner. And it seems that they were willing workers. Everyone was excited about the wonderful things that Solomon was doing. During David’s rule, the men had to fight in the army. But during Solomon’s rule, the country had peace. So the men were available for this task. Probably, they were very pleased to be able to build the *temple. It was a great honour to carry out this work for the *Lord.
People who were not *Israelites did some of the work. They cut and carried the stone. Some of this stone was 15 feet (4.5 metres) long. It needed many people to carry it. They used very good stone for the strong base of the *temple.
In Ephesians 2:20 Paul says that Christians are like a *temple. The foundation (strong base of a building) is like the instruction of the apostles and *prophets. (The apostles were the men who first took God’s message about Christ to people.) The most important foundation stone is like Jesus. God was present at the *temple. And God, by his *Spirit, lives in the lives of real Christians.
The construction of the *temple
Solomon acted as the *temple’s architect. But the plans were not his own. He used the plans that David had already made. And David did not design the plans by means of his own imagination. God’s *Spirit put these plans into his mind (1 Chronicles 28:11-12; 1 Chronicles 28:19). Hebrews 9:24 explains the reason for this arrangement. The *temple that Solomon built was a copy of the real *temple in heaven. So the design had to be God’s design. God was using Solomon to carry out his work on earth. And, by means of Solomon’s *temple, God would show his power and his honour.
The *temple was splendid. But few people would see the beauty of its rooms. Only priests entered the main hall. However, the most special place was the inner room. It was called the most *holy place. And only one man, the chief priest, would enter it. Even he could only enter it once each year (Hebrews 9:7).
Solomon began to build the *temple in the year 966 *B.C. This would mean that the people left Egypt in 1447 *B.C. The *temple was a small building by modern standards. It would be a house for God. But it was not like a modern church. It was not a place where a large number of people would *worship. Only the priests would *worship in the *temple, as they carried out their duties. However, the *temple was twice as long and wide as the tent that Moses had erected. They stored goods in the side rooms.
They built the *temple silently. This probably showed that the *temple was different from the buildings of other religions. It was a *holy place, where the God of *peace was present.
The staircase wound up from the bottom to the top storey. Solomon made the roof from *cedar wood. The side rooms rested on beams that rested on narrow shelves. The builders attached these shelves to the walls.
God encouraged Solomon to finish the work. He promised Solomon that he would be present with the *Israelites. And God referred to his promise to David. David’s family would always rule *Israel, if they continued to obey him. And that would be God’s promise to Solomon too, if Solomon continued to obey God. The splendid building that Solomon made could not impress God. What mattered to God was the attitude of Solomon’s heart. And if Solomon obeyed God’s law, God would support Solomon and his *kingdom. Hebrews 10:36 says, ‘You need to continue although things are difficult. Then you will receive what God has promised.’
Solomon covered the building with *cedar wood. He covered the most *holy place with gold. It contained the box of the *Lord’s *covenant which Moses had made. Inside the box were the stones of the 10 *commandments.
The *angels were like guards for the *Covenant Box. They were half of the height of the room. The room was 30 feet (9 metres) high. There were *carvings of *angels, trees and flowers on the walls. They were like pictures of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:8). God sent people out of Eden because of their *sin. They could only come near to God if he forgave their *sin. The most *holy place was the place where they offered *sacrifices for *sin. We can only enter heaven if we trust in the *sacrifice of Jesus for our *sin.
We are not sure what some of the words in these verses mean. People built such a splendid *temple because they recognised the greatness of God. It also taught people that God was with them. It did not keep God in one place. Solomon says this in chapter 8:27.
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3:16, tells Christians that they are God’s *temple. The Spirit of God lives in them. In Ephesians 2:19-22, Paul says that the church is the *temple of God. Jesus is the foundation (the strong base). Christians are like the stones of the *temple in which the *Holy Spirit lives.
Solomon took twice as long to build his own house as he did to build the *temple. However, he made sure that he built God’s house first.
Solomon’s own palace had many great halls. The halls had different designs.
· The ‘Hall of the Forest of Lebanon’ used much *cedar wood. That wood came from the forests in Lebanon. The hall received its name because of the use of the wood. The hall was a large room with an impressive design. Solomon kept much gold in this hall. He held great parties here (1 Kings 10:16-17; 10:21).
· The next room was the ‘Hall of Columns’. The columns were a very splendid entrance for the room.
· The ‘Hall of Judgement’ was a very important room. It contained Solomon’s throne (royal seat). Solomon used this throne when he acted as *Israel’s chief judge. The throne itself was magnificent. No other king had ever made such a wonderful throne (1 Kings 10:18-20).
The private rooms where Solomon actually lived were behind these halls. And Solomon built another palace for his wife, who was the daughter of the king of Egypt.
Solomon’s workmen used huge blocks of stone of the best quality to build all these buildings. They prepared the stone before they brought it to Jerusalem. They had to move the stone without any vehicles or motors, of course. The stone had to travel long distances. And Jerusalem is on the top of a mountain. They used carts, horses, and the strength of thousands of workmen.
The most common stone in *Israel is called limestone. There are different types of limestone. But some soft limestones have a useful quality for builders. When people cut this stone at first, it is fairly soft. So, it is easier to make smooth. Later, the weather causes it to become harder.
*Cedar wood is of the best quality. Solomon’s workmen chose very tall trees from the forests in Lebanon. They used some of the wood because of its strength. But they also used the wood for its beauty. In the ‘Hall of Judgement’, they covered the stone walls with wooden boards.
The furniture outside the *temple
Huram’s mother was a widow from Naphtali so she was an *Israelite. After her husband’s death, she married a man from Tyre who became Huram’s father. Both father and son were good workers with bronze (a brown metal). The *Israelites did not know how to work with metal. So Solomon brought this skilled workmen from Tyre. His mother was an *Israelite so he was not a complete foreigner.
Physically, the columns were just a way to *decorate the outside *courtyard of the *temple. Their size and beauty were impressive. But the columns also stood as a declaration about the *temple. They would remind people in the future why Solomon built this great *temple.
The names of the columns reminded the people about God. Jakin means ‘He (God) establishes’. That means, God establishes *Israel. In other words, God chose the people in *Israel to be his special people. And Boaz means ‘In him (God) there is strength’. In other words, the people in *Israel should receive their strength from God, not from armies or from wealth. God would keep the people strong in their beliefs. He would also give them the strength to do what he wanted them to do. We should remember these things when we go to give honour to God.
The great basin
This was a very large basin, for water. The priests used it to wash themselves before they offered *sacrifices. A gourd was a fruit. Huram chose this shape to *decorate the metal basin. Everything in the *temple and its *courtyard would be beautiful.
The basin reminded people about this fact. They must be clean in order to come in front of God. And that would remind them that they also should be *holy.
The carts and the smaller basins
The ceremonies that happened at the *temple were very unlike the ceremonies in a modern church.
People would bring animals to offer as *sacrifices. They would hand over these animals to the priests. The priests would kill the animals at the entrance of the *temple.
Then the priests would prepare the *sacrifices. There were several different types of *sacrifice. The priests had to be careful to obey the right rules for the type of *sacrifice. The law permitted the priests to take some meat for their own use. And the priests would burn other parts of the animals as a gift to God. They would do this on the *altar in front of the *temple.
The priests would cut up the *sacrifices on these carts. They would be careful to obey all the rules in Leviticus chapters 1 to 7.
There were 10 carts (or stands), which Huram made out of bronze (a brown metal). On them, there were smaller basins that would be full of water. These basins contained a supply of water for the priests to use as they worked. They would wash everything constantly as they prepared the *sacrifices. The carts were on wheels so people could move them. Usually they stood in two rows in the *courtyard that surrounded the *temple. There were 5 on one side of the *courtyard and 5 on the other.
The small objects
Huram also made some small objects for the *temple. The priests would use the spades to remove the ashes from the *altar. They would place the ashes in the pots (Exodus 27:3). The bowls were for the blood of *sacrifices. The priests would scatter some blood during certain ceremonies.
A list of Huram’s work for the *temple
This was a good area in which to make things from metal. There was plenty of clay (sticky earth) that the workmen dug from the ground. The clay that remained would keep its shape during the process. The workmen heated the metal until it melted. Trees provided fuel for the fires. The north wind would provide a current of air to make the fires hot. The workmen would pour the hot metal into the ground. When the metal was cool again, the workmen would dig it out of the ground. And the metal would now have the right shape.
All these bronze (brown metal) objects were for the *courtyard outside the *temple building. In fact, these verses do not contain a complete list. The most important other object was the *altar. This was also bronze. It stood in front of the entrance to the *temple. Here, the priests would burn the *sacrifices.
These objects were bronze. This metal reminds us about the nature of people. Bronze is not a pure metal. It is a mixture of other metals. It is not a pure, perfect metal like gold or silver. And people are not perfect, because of their *sin. God provided these objects so that people could offer *sacrifices for their *sin. And therefore, they could have a relationship with him. These *sacrifices show God’s plan to free people from *sin. That happened by the death of Jesus, who was the perfect *sacrifice for *sin.
The objects inside the *temple itself would be gold. Gold is a pure metal. It is also very beautiful. It reminds us that God is perfect. God never *sins. He is *holy.
The furniture inside the *temple
The *altar of gold was not the same as the bronze (brown metal) *altar that stood outside the building. Outside, the priests offered the *sacrifices for the people. But inside the *temple, the priests gave honour to God. So they offered no *sacrifices on the *altar of gold. Instead, they burned *incense on this *altar. So the *altar of gold was called the *altar of *incense.
Note that Solomon’s workmen made everything out of gold. This meant that the *temple was a place of great beauty and value. Solomon used gold because gold is a pure metal. The workmen would heat this gold in the hottest fires in order to remove any other substances.
This process teaches us how *holy God is. He is even more perfect than the purest gold. He is without any *sin whatever. And the nature of pure gold teaches us about God’s *glory (the splendid beauty and wonderful light of God’s perfect character).
Solomon did not choose himself what objects he would make for the *temple. He made objects like those that Moses had made for God’s sacred tent. And Moses had not chosen those objects himself. God directed Moses what to make (Exodus 35:10-19). So the design of the *temple and its furniture was God’s plan.
Verse 51 mentions David, Solomon’s father. David wanted to build this *temple, but God did not allow him. However, God gave David the plans for the *temple. And David himself was very generous. He gave much for the construction of the *temple (1 Chronicles 29:4). We usually call this building ‘Solomon’s *temple’. But in fact, Solomon was really just obeying his father’s orders.
So the people put the many objects that David gave into the store-rooms at the *temple. And then the *temple was complete. Solomon organised a special ceremony for the opening of the *temple (chapter 8).
The ceremony at the opening of the *temple
This describes how they brought the *Covenant Box into the *temple. This event happened during the *Festival of Shelters. This happened on the 15th day of the 7th month.
All the leaders of *Israel attended the ceremony. They all brought animals to *sacrifice to God.
The *Covenant Box was the most sacred object in the *temple. It was a wooden box, but gold surrounded the wood. Originally, Moses made it for the inner room of God’s special tent, that is, the tent of the *Lord’s *presence. Nobody would enter that room except for the chief priest. And even he only entered the room once each year.
The only things in the *Covenant Box were the stones of the 10 *commandments. These reminded the *Israelites about the *covenant that God had made with them at *Mount Sinai.
So, at this great ceremony, the priests moved the *Covenant Box into the inner room of the new *temple. This was a very *holy moment. So the priests acted with great care. The *Covenant Box was very sacred. The priests would know about Uzzah’s death (2 Samuel 6:6-7). Uzzah had died because he touched the box. So the priests carried the box on long poles. They offered very many *sacrifices. After they placed the box in its special place, they left the room.
Then the cloud which was a *sign of the *glory of the *Lord filled the *temple. This showed that God accepted the building and furniture of the *temple. Such an event had happened centuries before. It happened when Moses finished the construction of the tent of the *Lord’s *presence. On both occasions, the cloud showed that God was really present. He had been present at the tent. And now he was present at the *temple.
God sent the cloud so that people could not see the wonderful light of his *presence. That light is too bright for people to see, because of their human weakness. Moses briefly saw the light of God’s *presence. But even Moses could not see God’s face. Any person who saw God’s face would die (Exodus 33:20). Afterwards, Moses’ own face shone so brightly that he had to cover it (Exodus 34:24-35). But Paul says that, in the future, we shall see God’s face (1 Corinthians 13:12). This is God’s wonderful promise to every real Christian. And John agrees, in Revelation 22:4. John adds that our future home will not need the sun or the moon. That home will be bright because God is present there. And that light will shine across the whole world (Revelation 21:23-24).
This is what Solomon said to the people. He thanked God for all that he had done. He had *kept his promises to his people. He had helped Solomon to build the *temple. In the Book of Deuteronomy, God promised to choose a place where his people would *worship him (Deuteronomy 12:5). This would be the proper place for them to offer their *sacrifices. God did not need a house to live in. The *temple was a *sign of his *presence among the *Israelites. In those days, God lived with his people. Today he lives in his people. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:16, ‘We are the *temple of the living God.’
Our translation simply mentions the ‘*temple’. But in the original language these verses emphasise that the *temple is ‘for the name of God’. By ‘name’, Solomon did not just mean the word that we use to call someone. ‘Name’ meant the honour, authority and power of a person’s character. So God’s *temple would show God’s wonderful character. Here, God would forgive *sin when people turned to him. Here, God would show his kindness when he answered prayer. Here, God would accept the *sacrifices that his people offered.
Solomon stood to pray. In those days, the person who was lower in rank stood. The person of higher rank would sit down. Solomon therefore showed that God is great. And Solomon was humble as he prayed. He was the king. But he even called himself God’s servant. Kings often thought that the people were their servants. But, in this prayer, Solomon says that the people in *Israel were God’s servants.
God had done what he had promised. So Solomon gave honour to him. God had promised that he would choose a place for the *temple (Deuteronomy 12:5). That had happened. Now Solomon prayed that God would *keep his other promise. David’s *descendants would continue to rule *Israel as long as they obeyed God. Solomon then recognised that he could not keep God in the *temple. God is everywhere. But he asked that God would hear. And that God would answer the prayers that people made to him from the *temple. He prayed too that God would forgive them.
For the Christian, God really has come to live on earth in the person of Jesus Christ. *Forgiveness is available for all who put their trust in Jesus. This is because Jesus died for us. He is now in heaven and he is praying for his people. He offers their prayers to his Father.
Solomon asked God to listen to people’s prayers when people prayed towards the *temple. He asked that God would be their judge. God would know who was the innocent person or the guilty person.
Solomon also prayed here about many different types of trouble. Perhaps *Israel’s enemies would attack them, or there would be a lack of food. Perhaps there would be a *disaster or some disease. He prayed that God would forgive people. But they had to turn from their *sins.
Today, we do not pray towards a place but towards a person, the *Lord Jesus Christ. We can learn about him as we study the *temple. It is Jesus who can forgive us.
Solomon’s words refer back to Deuteronomy chapter 28. In that chapter, God promised to do good things for the people in *Israel. However, they would only receive the benefit of those promises if they obeyed God’s law. If they did not obey, they would suffer many troubles. Solomon mentions many of these troubles in his prayer.
Of course, many people suffer similar troubles for other reasons. Troubles happen to everyone. These troubles are often not the result of *sin (John 9:1-3). But Solomon knew how God had warned the people in *Israel. And so this prayer was about those troubles that really are the result of *sin. Solomon prayed that the people would not suffer a permanent punishment. God had provided the *temple. And this *temple would be the place where people would pray. They could offer *sacrifices. They could ask God to forgive them. So Solomon prayed that God would forgive them. And he prayed that those troubles would then end. (See Ezekiel chapter 18; James 5:13-20).
Solomon asked God to accept the prayers of foreigners who came to him. He understood that God’s good news was for all people, not just one nation. Jesus said, ‘My *temple is a house of prayer for the people in all nations’ (Mark 11:17).
Solomon also prayed that *Israel might have success in wars. In 2 Kings chapter 19, Hezekiah went to the *temple to pray for the defeat of Sennacherib’s army.
Solomon then prayed for those whom God would punish because of their *sin. God would allow their enemies to *capture them and to take them into *exile. As a result, they would turn from their *sins and look towards their country. They would look towards Jerusalem and the *temple. They could not come to the *temple to pray, because they were in *exile. But they could still turn towards Jerusalem to pray. Daniel actually did this in Daniel 6:10.
He asked that God would pardon them. They were the people whom he brought out of Egypt. He chose them to be his own people. Because of God’s *covenant with them, he would show them *grace.
Romans 5:6 tells us how God shows his *grace to Christians also. ‘When we were still without power, Christ died for wicked people.’ Ephesians 1:4 says, ‘God chose us in Christ before he made the world.’ 1 John 1:9 says, ‘But if we tell God the truth about our *sins then he will forgive us.’
Solomon *blessed the people. He told them to be completely loyal to God. He reminded them how God had helped them in the past. As a result, they must obey God. He prayed that God would assist them daily with their troubles. Then other nations would know that he is the only real God. This is because of what he has done for *Israel.
In Ephesians 1:11-12 Paul says to Christians, ‘God chose us in Christ…. to give honour to his *glory.’ So as God works in our lives, he receives the *glory.
There was a large crowd of people when they gave the *temple to God. That is why there were so many *sacrifices. The *celebration lasted 7 days. Then the *Festival of Shelters also lasted 7 days. People came from every part of the *kingdom. They came from the Lebanon in the north to the border of Egypt in the south.
This was the beginning of the daily *sacrifices for *sin at the *temple. These lasted as long as the *temple stood. Today Hebrews 7:25 tells us that Jesus prays to God for us. His prayers for us are also continuous. But Jesus’ death as a *sacrifice only happened once. That one perfect *sacrifice was enough for all our *sin (Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 10:10-12).
God appears to Solomon again
God appeared to Solomon as he had done in chapter 3. Then he promised to give him the wisdom that he needed to rule the country. Here he made another promise to Solomon. He would *keep the *covenant which he made with David his father. But the promise depended upon whether or not Solomon and his *descendants obeyed God. They might turn away from God and *worship other gods. If so, the *temple would become a ruin (a building that people have broken). Other people would learn a lesson from this.
Jesus promised that he would give his people *everlasting life. ‘They will never die. Nobody can take them away from me’ (John 10:28). However, Colossians 1:23 says this. ‘You must continue to be loyal.’ Some people may turn away from their beliefs. This may show that they were never really Christians at all. We need to have the fruit of God’s *Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23).
In verse 3, God explains how special the *temple was. It was not merely a place for *worship or for ceremonies. In the original language, God says that his ‘name’, his ‘eyes’ and his ‘heart’ would always be there:
· The word ‘name’ means God’s honour, character, authority and strength.
· The word ‘eyes’ means that God would watch his *temple and his people. He would watch them in order to protect them. And he would also watch them in order to show kindness to them.
· The word ‘heart’ should remind us how much God loves his people. He would show that love to them by means of the *temple.
Solomon gave Hiram 20 towns in Galilee. Some people think that he did this in order to *borrow some gold from him. But Hiram did not like the towns. 2 Chronicles 8:2 tells us that Hiram gave them back to Solomon. Some people think that the towns were not very good ones. Other people think that Solomon took the gold from King Hiram. Solomon intended to return it later, so he lent the towns to Hiram. In other words, Hiram would receive income from the towns until Solomon returned the money. And then Solomon got the towns back.
So we cannot be sure about the facts of this matter. But we can see clearly that Solomon was not generous. And that surprises us. We would expect Solomon to be very generous to Hiram. Hiram had done many things to help Solomon when he was building the *temple. And Hiram had either lent or given a large quantity of gold to Solomon. But these towns disappointed Hiram. Clearly, he expected something better.
This chapter continues with an account of how Solomon forced people to work for him. Solomon was learning how to control people. And he was learning how to gain unfair benefits from other people. In the end, such activities would upset people greatly. They were part of the reason why Solomon’s *kingdom divided in two after his death.
This section tells us about how Solomon carried out his schemes for buildings. It says that only foreigners were slaves. But the *Israelites had to work as well. They also paid big taxes. These were two of the reasons why the *kingdom divided after Solomon’s death. Note that Solomon built God’s house first, then his own house. Afterwards, he built the one for his wife. He also built defences for Jerusalem city.
Three times a year Solomon offered *sacrifices to God on the *altar. This would be the *Festival of bread that would not rise. It would also be the *Festival of Weeks and the *Festival of Shelters.
Hiram’s workers built the ships and his sailors operated them. Many people think that Ophir was in Southern Arabia. Some people think that it was Sri Lanka. The gold was worth many millions of pounds or dollars in today’s money.
Solomon had become a very wealthy and powerful king.
The Queen of Sheba’s visit
This is the famous story of the Queen of Sheba. Sheba was south of *Israel, probably in the south of Arabia. The Queen came to find out about Solomon’s wisdom and perhaps to discuss trade. She had heard stories about Solomon’s wealth and wisdom. She found out that the truth was even greater than the stories. She praised the God who had made Solomon king. She brought great presents with her. Solomon gave great presents to her.
The Queen of Sheba travelled a very long distance to visit Solomon. She very much wanted to see him. Jesus contrasted her with the people in his own time. ‘The Queen of the South and the people who are living now will stand up together on judgement day. She will show that they are guilty. She travelled a long way to listen to Solomon’s wisdom. Now someone who is greater than Solomon is here.’ (See Matthew 12:42.) We will have no excuse if we do not obey the words of Jesus. He is much greater than Solomon was.
This passage shows Solomon’s great wealth. A great deal of it came from taxes that merchants paid. It also came from countries that his father had *conquered (verses 14-15). Much of it came from merchants who explored abroad. Some came from people who paid him for his advice (verses 24-25). He also obtained wealth from trade in horses and *chariots (verses 28-29).
Solomon made some gold *shields that he used in ceremonies. These showed that he protected his people. He also made a royal seat on which he sat to give laws and advice. The dishes and cups in the palace were gold. Silver seemed as common as stones. Note that he asked God for wisdom not wealth. God told him that he would get wealth also. This is because he asked wisely. Some people think that he wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes. If so, he learnt that wealth has no real value. Life has no meaning without God.
The great wealth of Solomon’s *kingdom reminds us about the great wealth of God’s *kingdom (Revelation 21:18-21). But unlike Solomon’s wealth, nothing will ever spoil the precious things in God’s *kingdom (1 Peter 1:4). And the things that God provides are beautiful. Even on this earth, those things are much more beautiful than anything that Solomon could make (Matthew 6:28-29).
But the wealth of Solomon’s *kingdom also reminds us about human desires, and about *sin. God’s law contained rules for the kings of *Israel (Deuteronomy 17:14-17). They must not collect silver and gold. They should not marry many wives. And they should not own great numbers of horses. Solomon did not obey these rules. At this time, Solomon was still serving God. But Solomon had begun to care more about his own wealth than he cared about God’s law.
Solomon *worships false gods
Solomon married women from foreign countries. These marriages often took place for political purposes. He wanted to make friends with these countries. But such marriages were against God’s law (Deuteronomy 7:3-4). And God told the kings of *Israel not to marry many wives (Deuteronomy 17:17). Such wives would make the *Israelites turn away from God.
Solomon built places for the wives to *worship their own gods and he often joined in with them. And Solomon was *worshipping very wicked gods. For example, Ashtoreth was a sex god. And Milcom (also called Molech) demanded human *sacrifice.
God was angry because Solomon had not obeyed him. As a result, God said that Solomon’s family would lose control of the *kingdom. But because of God’s promise to David, it would not happen while Solomon was alive. Even then, there would be one *tribe, *Judah, which Solomon’s son would still control.
It is sad that an old and wise king made such a big mistake. He had warned people about what can tempt them in Proverbs 5:1-14, 22-23. That can happen to people who feel very comfortable. It also attacks people when they are Christian leaders. ‘A person may think that he is standing firm. However, he must be careful. Otherwise he may fall’ (1 Corinthians 10:12). We must depend on God’s *grace right until the end.
Hadad had escaped from Edom when he was young. He went to stay in Egypt. There he married the sister of the king of Egypt’s wife. The king supported him. He did not want *Israel to become too powerful. However, when Hadad wanted to return home, the king did not want to let him go. The king had good relations with Solomon because Solomon had married his daughter. But Hadad went back and he began to attack Solomon from the south.
Rezon attacked Solomon from the north after his men had *captured Damascus.
All this happened because Solomon turned away from God. God does not allow such troubles merely to hurt someone. Rather, he wants that person to turn back to him. Solomon’s father, David, suffered because of his *sin in 2 Samuel chapter 24. David confessed his *sin and he turned back to God. But Solomon did not do the same.
Jeroboam’s story begins 20 years after the beginning of Solomon’s rule. He was an impressive man and a hard worker. Solomon put him in command of the people from the *tribes of Joseph. Those people had to work for the king. Ephraim and Manasseh were Joseph’s sons. Their families formed 2 of the largest *tribes in *Israel.
The *prophet told Jeroboam that he would rule the 10 northern *tribes of *Israel. This was because Solomon had not obeyed God. This would only happen after Solomon’s death. The two southern *tribes (*Judah and Benjamin) would continue to belong to the family of David. However, Jeroboam’s family would only continue to rule over the north if they obeyed God.
Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam. This shows us how wicked Solomon had become. He even tried to murder Jeroboam because he (Solomon) did not want to lose his *kingdom. But nobody can successfully oppose God’s plans. So Jeroboam went into Egypt. King Shishak was the first king of the 22nd group of rulers. He ruled from 945-924 *B.C.
So God punished Solomon but he *kept his promise to David.
The author of the Books of Kings used a book called ‘The History of the acts of Solomon’. That book does not still exist. It contained information about Solomon’s life. Solomon ruled as long as his father did. But he did not live as long. His life was shorter because of his *sin. He ruled from 971-931 *B.C. Solomon’s life warns us about our own lives. It is good to begin well, but we must also end well.
The *kingdom divides
These verses tell us how the *kingdom divided after the death of Solomon. Rehoboam was the son of the wisest of men. But he was not wise. The northern *tribes of *Israel had gone to Shechem to make Rehoboam their king. So Rehoboam went there too.
Rehoboam probably thought that Shechem would be a good place to become king. It was the place where God promised the country called Canaan to Abraham (Genesis 12:6-7). It was in the centre of *Israel. It was not in *Judah, where Rehoboam’s family came from. And Shechem was between two mountains called Ebal and Gerizim. Here, the *Israelites gathered to make their promises to God (Deuteronomy chapter 27; Joshua chapter 24).
If the *Israelites appointed Rehoboam king at Shechem, they would always be loyal to him. However, Shechem was the wrong place for Rehoboam to become king. God had told Solomon that Rehoboam would not rule all *Israel. Rehoboam would only rule one *tribe, that is, *Judah. By his decision to go to Shechem, Rehoboam was trying to make himself more powerful than God intended. And Rehoboam was opposing God’s plans. God had chosen Jerusalem to be his *holy city. God’s *temple was there. Jerusalem was the capital city for David’s family to rule. Rehoboam should have become king there.
When the *Israelites met at Shechem, they were not ready to appoint Rehoboam king. Instead, they started to complain about the government. They did not like Solomon’s high taxes. They did not like the fact that they had to work for the king.
Jeroboam also came to Shechem. The *Israelites respected Jeroboam, although he had opposed Solomon. It seems that they asked Jeroboam to speak on their behalf. The people were willing to make Rehoboam king. They wanted the *kingdom to remain united. But the people would not continue to work so hard for the king. So Rehoboam would have to be a weaker king than his father was.
Rehoboam was foolish. He did not want God’s advice. Rehoboam did not pray. He did not even ask a *prophet or priest to advise him. He did not care that God did not want him to rule the northern *tribes. Rehoboam only cared about his own power.
So instead, Rehoboam chose political advisers. But he did not even choose the best advice that was available to him. He did not take the advice of those who advised his father. Instead, he took the advice of men of his own age. (He was 41 at this time.)
The men who had advised Solomon were very capable men. They had gained much experience in Solomon’s government. And they knew something that Rehoboam did not realise. The people did not respect Solomon just because he was their master and king. First, they saw that God had given wisdom to Solomon. They saw that Solomon’s judgements were fair. They realised that Solomon would be a great king (1 Kings 3:28). And so they were pleased to serve him. But Rehoboam did not have these benefits. Rehoboam would be unable to rule the people unless they supported him. So these older advisers told Rehoboam to agree with the people’s demands.
But the younger men were not wise advisers. They were just Rehoboam’s friends. They had grown up with him. So they had benefited from the luxury in the palace. Perhaps they never had to work hard. It is clear that they did not understand the real situation. They thought that they could control the *Israelites by strong words. These young men clearly did not expect the *Israelites’ strong reaction. But Rehoboam liked his friends’ advice. They were telling him what he wanted to hear.
Rehoboam did not do what the king should have done. Deuteronomy chapter 17 said that the king must follow God’s laws. But Solomon refused to obey God’s law. And then Rehoboam made a foolish decision. The writer here in 1 Kings says that God wanted this to happen. This means that it was part of God’s punishment. Solomon had not obeyed God.
These verses describe how the northern *tribes *rebelled against David’s family. The northern *Israelites protested against Rehoboam. Then he sent Adoniram to force them to obey him. Adoniram had been a very powerful man when Solomon was alive. But the situation had changed. People used to be afraid of Adoniram. But they were not still afraid. So they murdered him. Rehoboam’s action was foolish, as people already disliked Adoniram. Rehoboam had to escape to Jerusalem.
Then the northern *Israelites made Jeroboam their king. Probably they chose him because they considered him a good leader. But, of course, God had already chosen Jeroboam to be *Israel’s king. And so God carried out what he had promised in chapter 11.
Rehoboam made plans to fight in order to get the *kingdom back. God told him not to fight against the other *Israelites. This time he listened to God’s *prophet and he obeyed. He and his armies went home. He realised that God would allow him to rule *Judah only. If Rehoboam fought the *Israelites, he would be opposing God’s plan.
By means of these events, the *kingdom had separated permanently. The Book of 1 Kings continues with reports of events in both parts of the country. The northern *kingdom is often called *Israel. The southern *kingdom is called *Judah.
Jeroboam made Shechem his first capital city. Abraham had camped there. He had also built an *altar there. Later the *Canaanites had a place of *worship there. There the people had *rejected Rehoboam as king. Peniel was an important city for defence against *Israel’s enemies.
It was God who appointed Jeroboam to be king. But Jeroboam was not loyal to God. Instead, he set up his own religion.
This was a clever political decision. People would not still go to Jerusalem to offer *sacrifices. So the relationship between *Israel and *Judah would become even weaker. And Jeroboam would become a more powerful king. Jeroboam’s religion was like the religion that Aaron set up in Exodus chapter 32. Jeroboam tried to combine the *worship of the *bull with the *worship of the *Lord. Of course, this was against God’s law. Jeroboam did not obey the second *commandment when he did this. Dan was in the far north of northern *Israel. Bethel was near the border with Benjamin and *Judah. The idea was that people would have a place of *worship near them. Then they would not want to go all the way to Jerusalem.
Also, Jeroboam set up other places of *worship on the hills. This is where the *Canaanites had given honour to their gods. He made his own *festival on the 15th day of the 8th month. This would be like the *Festival of Shelters which the people in *Judah *celebrated. They did this on the 15th day of the 7th month. Jeroboam also made priests from families who did not belong to the *tribe of Levi. He also acted as a priest himself. When Jeroboam did these things, he was *rebelling against God. We must give honour to God in the way that he has told us. If we do not, he will not accept our *worship.
In 1 Kings 11:28, God made a wonderful promise to Jeroboam. Jeroboam’s family would always rule *Israel, if only they obeyed God. But Jeroboam did not obey God. Instead, Jeroboam chose his own false gods, and he taught the people in *Israel to serve them.
A *prophet warns Jeroboam
The *kingdom that David and Solomon used to rule had divided into two *kingdoms. The northern *tribes were not still loyal to David’s family. And those *tribes had chosen a new religion. They were *worshipping the images of *bulls, instead of the *Lord. But, by an extraordinary series of events, God showed that he still had a special relationship with those *tribes. They were *worshipping false gods. But they were still responsible to the real God.
God warned Jeroboam that he was doing the wrong thing. He sent a *prophet who *prophesied to the *altar. In other words, the *prophet spoke to the *altar. He announced what would happen to the *altar in the future. He even named the king who would destroy that *altar. Josiah would *sacrifice the bones of the priests who had *worshipped other gods on this *altar. (This *worship often happened on high hills.) Josiah did this about 350 years later. We can read about it in 2 Kings 23:15-20.
As a *sign that this would happen, the *altar fell apart. The ashes of the *altar poured out.
Jeroboam tried to arrest the *prophet. But Jeroboam’s arm suddenly became weak. It seemed dry and without life. The king was unable to move it. God was showing everyone that Jeroboam had no power over the *prophet. The *prophet had authority from God. And no king’s authority is ever greater than God’s authority.
Jeroboam asked the *prophet to pray that God would cure him. And God did this. Then Jeroboam invited the *prophet to come home for a meal. He also offered him a gift. Jeroboam was trying to reward the *prophet, because Jeroboam’s arm was well again. The *prophet refused. He said that God had told him not to accept the king’s offer. He wanted to show Jeroboam that God did not want payment, but a change of mind. The *prophet did not want to associate with Jeroboam’s *worship of *idols. God does not forgive us because of the things that we do. He does not forgive us because of the gifts that we bring. We must change our minds. And today we must trust in Jesus.
The special instructions that God gave to this *prophet show the importance of the *prophet’s words. And people continued to remember his words for many centuries because of the strange events that happened next.
This is a very unusual story. The *prophet from *Judah refused the king’s invitation, but he accepted the old *prophet’s invitation. Perhaps he thought that the old *prophet from Bethel was telling the truth. In fact he was lying. He told the *prophet from *Judah that an *angel had told him to give his invitation. When people talk to us about God, we need to be careful. Paul says this in Galatians 1:8. ‘We taught you the good news about Christ. Let God punish us if we teach you something different. Let God punish even an *angel from heaven who teaches something different.’ We must compare everything with what the Bible teaches. People may say that they are teaching God’s truth. But not all of them actually are.
The *prophet from *Judah trusted the old *prophet. And so he (the *prophet from *Judah) did not obey the instructions that God had given to him. That was a very foolish decision. The *prophet from *Judah had received God’s word. And he had seen that the message was right, because of the *sign in verse 5. But the *prophet from *Judah wanted to eat the meal. So he went with the older *prophet. We may often think that God is guiding us. This is often the case when we want to do something. But we should not just follow our own desires. We should find out what God wants.
The old *prophet had lied. But that did not mean that he was unable to *prophesy. He gave a genuine *prophecy from God. The *prophet from *Judah would die because he had not obeyed God.
The *prophet from *Judah should have confessed his *sin to God. (It is a *sin not to obey God.) He should have asked God for *mercy. But for some reason, he did not do this. He even continued to eat after he heard the *prophecy. Then, he prepared to return home.
As the *prophet travelled back towards *Judah, a lion attacked him. Usually a lion eats the bodies of anything that it kills. But the lion did not even damage the *prophet’s body. Instead, the lion stood by the body, like a guard. Usually a *mule would run away from a lion. Otherwise the lion would kill the *mule. But this *mule did not run away. Instead, it stood with the lion by the body. These animals were behaving in a very strange manner. The people who saw this talked about it. The actions of these animals showed that the dead *prophet deserved great honour. He deserved honour because he spoke God’s words.
The death of the *prophet from *Judah caused the old *prophet to turn back to God. The old *prophet buried the *prophet from *Judah with great honour. The grave was in an important position near to Jeroboam’s *altar (2 Kings 23:17). The old *prophet declared to his sons that the *prophet from *Judah gave a genuine message from God. So the old *prophet emphasised the importance of that message.
This event was very unusual. *Prophets did not usually die if they chose not to obey God (Numbers chapter 12; Numbers 20:12; Jonah 1:17). But sometimes they did (1 Kings 20:37). But a *prophet who was not obeying God often lost God’s special protection. (Compare 1 Peter 5:8.) It seems that God allowed the *prophet from *Judah to die for a special reason. Without these events, people would soon forget the *prophet’s message about the *altar. But because of the *prophet’s death, people would remember. Even 350 years later, people still knew about his message (2 Kings 23:17).
Jeroboam did not change his behaviour even after God warned him. He probably repaired the *altar and *sacrificed on it again. He made priests from families that God had not chosen. In the end, his family were no longer kings of *Israel.
This is very sad, because God gave Jeroboam every opportunity to be a great king. God even made special promises to Jeroboam. His family would always rule, if only they would obey God (1 Kings 12:38). These were like the promises that God gave to David (2 Samuel 7:16) and to Solomon (1 Kings 9:4-5). But Jeroboam’s family would lose everything because of their *sin.
Ahijah *prophesies the end of Jeroboam’s rule over *Israel
Jeroboam sent his wife to find out from Ahijah if his sick son would recover. Ahijah had given him a good *prophecy earlier (1 Kings 11:29-31), so he hoped for the same again. Perhaps Jeroboam thought that Ahijah would be angry with him because of his *sins. So he told his wife not to dress like a queen. They thought that the *prophet would not recognise her. Perhaps she thought that this would make the *prophecy a good one. Jeroboam and his wife seemed to think that the *prophet could bless them by his own power. Perhaps they thought that the *prophet could cure their son by some kind of magic. But they were stupid. They did not realise that a real *prophet’s power can only come from God. A *prophet has no special power of his own. So the *prophet depends completely on God’s word.
Ahijah was blind. But God told him who was coming. We might pretend to be someone else. And we might convince other people. But God always knows the truth about us.
Ahijah told Jeroboam’s wife that God had sent him to her. Of course, she travelled to visit Ahijah. But really God sent Ahijah; in other words, God had sent Ahijah with a message. Ahijah had to take that message to Jeroboam’s family. But Ahijah did not need to travel in order to declare that message. Jeroboam’s wife was present with him. So Ahijah spoke his message. That message was about God’s judgement against her husband and his family.
Ahijah told Jeroboam’s wife that her child would die. But he would die for an unusual reason. That son had pleased God. In other words, the son was obeying God. So God would cause the son to die in order to save him from an awful punishment. Everyone else in Jeroboam’s family would die because of *sin. People would not even bury their dead bodies because God was so angry with them. But that son was different. People would bury him in honour because he had pleased God.
Ahijah added that another family would rule over *Israel. But the *kingdom would never have a firm ruler. In the end, soldiers from Assyria would take the people into *exile.
So Jeroboam’s son died. His death showed that Ahijah’s *prophecy was correct. But Jeroboam did not turn back to God. Instead Jeroboam fought wars and he continued to rule by his own strength. And he continued to *worship false gods. After he had ruled for 22 years, Jeroboam died. Two years afterwards, Baasha killed Jeroboam’s other son, called Nadab and all the rest of his family. The Bible says that we cannot lie to God. ‘You cannot cheat God. A farmer harvests the same crops as he sows. So a man who lives by his own desires will die, because of his desires. But a man who lives by the Spirit will always live, because of the Spirit.’ (See Galatians 6:7-8.)
Rehoboam’s rule as king of *Judah
The Bible does not say anything good about Rehoboam. During his rule, the people turned away from God. They were worse than in the time of the Book of Judges.
The stones were like images of male gods. Both men and women offered their bodies for sex. They did this as part of their religion. People believed that this would give them good crops. The gods would send rain and sun.
The original inhabitants of the country called Canaan followed a wicked religion. These practises were part of that religion. Because that religion was so evil, God forced those people to leave the land. He gave the land to his own people, that is, the *Israelites. He warned his people about those religions. They should not imitate the behaviour of the people who used to live in their country. They should not *worship the false gods. And they should not marry anyone from the nations that used to own the land. Solomon had married Rehoboam’s mother, who was from the nation called Ammon. And Solomon *worshipped false gods when he was old. During Rehoboam’s rule, the people were following those evil religions and their wicked practices. These *sins were terrible. They caused God to be angry.
The army from Egypt defeated Rehoboam’s army. So the king of Egypt took away all the valuable things in the *temple. Rehoboam replaced gold *shields with cheaper ones that he made out of bronze (a brown metal).
Rehoboam and Jeroboam were always at war with each other. They did not always fight but they always had to be ready for war.
Our *sins make God angry. ‘God is angry with wicked people every day’ (Psalm 7:11). *Sin makes things worse, not better. ‘They said that they themselves were clever. They said that they understood many things. But really, they became fools. They refused to *worship the great and good God who can never die. Instead, they made and *worshipped false gods. Their false gods were like human people, who must die…They refused to believe the true things about God. Instead, they chose to believe something that is not true’ (Romans 1:22, 23, 25)
Abijam’s rule as king of *Judah
Abijam ruled between 913-910 *B.C. He was not like David. He did not serve God. But because of David’s love for God, God allowed David’s *descendants to continue to rule in Jerusalem.
2 Chronicles chapter 13 tells us about the war between Abijam and Jeroboam. Abijam described how the people in Jerusalem still obeyed the *Lord. Abijam warned the *Israelites about their false gods. He told them that God would support the army from *Judah. And he asked the *Israelites not to fight against them. Jeroboam did not listen. Jeroboam lost the battle and he did not get his power back.
On that occasion, Abijam did well. He trusted God, and he won the battle. But that was not Abijam’s usual behaviour. He did not continue to be loyal to God.
We cannot be sure about the reason for Abijam’s *sin. Perhaps he was like his grandfather Solomon. Solomon began well, but he did not continue to be loyal to God. Like Solomon, Abijam had many wives (2 Chronicles 13:21).
Or perhaps Abijam expected God’s help because he performed all the *religious ceremonies. God wants us to trust him completely. Ceremonies are not enough.
Asa’s rule as king of *Judah
Asa ruled for 41 years from 910-869 *B.C. He did what his *ancestor, David had done. He removed the priests who used their bodies for sex. (They did this as part of an evil religion.) He removed *idols. He removed his grandmother as queen mother because she had made an *idol. He burnt her *idol. He put gold and silver back into the *temple. He did not remove all the places of *worship on the high hills. But he was sincere because he tried to please God.
But Asa did not trust God completely. The author of 1 Kings records two particular matters where Asa did not trust God:
· Asa gave silver and gold to persuade Benhadad to stop his agreement with Baasha of *Israel. He used gold and silver from the *temple to get help from a king. Asa did not ask help from God. In 2 Chronicles chapter 16 a *prophet told Asa that he was wrong. He said that in future Asa would have wars. Asa put the *prophet in prison.
· When Asa had a disease in his feet, he did not pray to God. He just asked doctors for help. (See 2 Chronicles 16:12.)
So Asa was a good king who pleased God. But Asa’s *faith was weak. Many people today are like him. When they are comfortable, they serve God. But when they have problems, they are not ready to trust God. Instead, they try to deal with their problems by their own efforts. Or they prefer to depend on human help. But we should always trust God completely, in every situation.
Nadab’s rule as king of *Israel
Nadab continued to *sin and to give honour to *idols as Jeroboam had done. Baasha attacked and killed him, and all of Jeroboam’s family. So Ahijah’s *prophecy came true. When God warns us about something, we should listen!
Baasha’s rule as king of *Israel
God warned Baasha about what would happen because of his *sin. Jehu was a *prophet for a long time. 40 years later, he spoke to King Jehoshaphat. He wrote a history of his rule (2 Chronicles 19:2; 20:34). Jehu reminded Baasha about the good things that God had done for him. But Baasha had made God angry. He made the people *worship *idols as Jeroboam had done. Jehu told Baasha what would happen to his family. They would die as Jeroboam’s family had died. In other words, they would suffer the same punishment as Jeroboam’s family suffered.
There are different ideas about the meaning of the last sentence in this passage. One ancient translation says, ‘God was also angry because Baasha killed Jehu.’ But probably, this sentence is about the murder of Jeroboam’s family. God said that this would happen. But it seems that Baasha was a cruel man. He did not care what God wanted. Baasha killed Jeroboam’s family because of his own ambitions.
God often gives power to bad men. They still carry out his purposes, although not in a good way. For example, Nebuchadnezzar took the *Israelites away from their country. God allowed this to happen in order to punish his people. However, Nebuchadnezzar did this in a very cruel way. (See 2 Kings chapters 24 and 25.)
Elah’s rule as king of *Israel
Elah ruled for two years. Then one of his soldiers, Zimri, killed him. Elah’s father, Baasha, had killed Nadab during a battle. Zimri killed Elah after Elah had been drinking alcohol. He also killed all of Baasha’s family.
That was the end of the second family that ruled the northern *tribes of *Israel. Everyone in those families died. They died because of their *sin. They made the people in *Israel *worship *idols. They refused to obey the real God. And they became very wicked. Those were the reasons for their defeat.
Zimri’s brief rule as king of *Israel
Zimri’s rule was very short. When the *Israelite army heard about his actions they chose Omri as their king. He was in command of their army. Tirzah was an easy city to *capture. Zimri could not defend the palace so he made it on fire. He died in the flames. God punished Zimri for his *sins.
Omri’s rule as king of *Israel
Although the report of Omri’s life is brief, Omri was the most important king of *Israel. He was a great political leader. He established a strong capital for *Israel. And he was a powerful leader of the army. But the Bible does not praise Omri for his many skills. It was Omri’s behaviour that mattered to God. And Omri’s behaviour was even worse than the kings who ruled *Israel before him. All these kings had refused to obey God’s law. They did not love God, as David had done. Instead, they loved ambition and power. And now, the family that ruled *Israel was even more wicked.
Omri bought the hill called Samaria and he made it into a great city. It became the capital of the country. He made some very fine buildings there. The city would be very difficult for enemies to *capture. During the first 4 years of Omri’s rule, he fought against Tibni. We do not know how Tibni died. Perhaps he died in a battle.
Omri was worse than Jeroboam in his attitude to religion. He made an agreement with Ethbaal king of Tyre and Sidon. His son, Ahab married Ethbaal’s daughter Jezebel. The result of this was the *worship of *Baal in the northern *kingdom.
Ahab begins his rule as king of *Israel
There is more about Ahab in the Bible than any other king of *Israel. During his rule, the *worship of God and the *worship of *Baal opposed each other. Ahab built a *temple in Samaria and he put an *altar to *Baal in it. He married Jezebel who was a very wicked queen. She was also a very loyal *worshipper of *Baal. She persuaded Ahab to *worship *Baal more and more.
Hiel is another example of someone who did not obey God. He built Jericho city again. The reconstruction of Jericho was an act to oppose God. God told the *Israelites to destroy Jericho completely when they first entered the country called Canaan. That action was the start of God’s punishment against the people in Canaan. God was punishing them for their wicked behaviour and because they *worshipped false gods.
During Ahab’s rule, the *Israelites were *worshipping the same false gods as the people from Canaan had *worshipped. And they were guilty of the same wicked behaviour too. That is why Hiel wanted to rebuild Jericho. The result of his actions was awful. You can read Joshua’s *prophecy in Joshua 6:26. Hiel’s oldest son died as he began to build. His youngest son died as he finished.
But Ahab learned nothing from these events. His wicked behaviour became even worse. And he continued to *worship *Baal.
At about this time, God sent an extraordinary *prophet to *Israel. His name was Elijah.
Elijah the *prophet
Elijah appears suddenly in the story. Later he disappears suddenly. He is a very important person in the Old Testament (the first part of the Bible). People often refer to him in the New Testament (the second part of the Bible). Peter, John and James saw him with Jesus and Moses on the mountain (Luke 9:30-33). The letter by James refers to him as a man who prayed. ‘Elijah was the same kind of person as we are. He prayed that the rain would not come. No rain fell upon the land for three and a half years.’ (See James 5:17.)
The people in *Israel were already *worshipping false gods long before Ahab became king, But Ahab encouraged the people to follow these false religions. Especially, he wanted people to *worship the false god called *Baal. Ahab was acting as if the *Lord, the real God of *Israel, were dead. Or, as if the *Lord did not still care about *Israel.
So the *Lord appointed Elijah to be a *prophet to *Israel. Elijah was bold when he spoke to King Ahab. Elijah declared that the *Lord was definitely alive. And he was still *Israel’s God, although Ahab did not respect him. And now the *Lord would *challenge *Baal. The *worshippers of the god *Baal believed that he provided them with rain. God was showing that he is more powerful than *Baal.
Then God told Elijah to hide. He did this probably because Ahab wanted to kill him. While Elijah was at Cherith, God used extraordinary means to provide for him. God provided Elijah with water from the stream. But wild birds called ravens brought Elijah’s food. These birds are large black birds, which usually eat meat. God uses unusual means sometimes to carry out his plans. God did this wonderful thing to show Elijah that he could trust God completely. Elijah would have to carry out some very difficult tasks for the *Lord. So Elijah needed to learn how to depend on God.
God again provided for Elijah in an unusual way. God sent Elijah to Sidon, which was a Gentile town. (The *Israelites called people who were not *Jews, ‘Gentiles’.) In addition, Jezebel the wife of Ahab came from this town.
God chose a very poor person, a widow, to give food to Elijah. Perhaps Elijah is the first *prophet to the Gentiles (Luke 4:25-26). God often chooses people who seem weak and foolish to carry out his plans (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). Perhaps the widow *worshipped God, as she referred to him in verse 12. We do not know how she heard about God. But long before, when Solomon was king, people from Tyre helped to build the *temple (1 Kings 5:1; 7:13). Zarephath was near Tyre. Perhaps many families from that area began to believe in the *Lord during Solomon’s rule.
The widow’s words to Elijah are interesting. She knew that God is alive. But she spoke to Elijah about ‘your God’. So she recognised that Elijah was a servant of God. However, she had a severe problem. There had been no rain for a long time. She had been unable to buy any food. So she only had enough flour and oil to make one meal. After that meal, she expected that both she and her son would die.
Elijah’s request for a loaf of bread is a test of her *faith. He asked her to give him the first loaf, before she made anything for herself or her son. Because Elijah was God’s *prophet, she would be giving that loaf to God. We should always give God the first place in our lives.
Then Elijah gave a *prophecy to the woman. God himself would provide her food until the rains came. And because she had heard God’s word, the woman believed. She obeyed the *prophet. The result was that God provided food for all of them.
God’s word never disappoints us, even in the most difficult situations. We should always obey God. He deserves the first place in our lives. Jesus said, ‘God’s *kingdom should have the first place in your life. Always try to live in the manner that pleases him. Then God will provide everything else that you need’ (Matthew 6:33).
The widow’s son died. Neither she nor Elijah expected this. She knew that Elijah had prayed against Ahab and Jezebel because of their *worship of *Baal. Perhaps she had *worshipped *Baal in the past. Perhaps she thought that God was punishing her for this. Or perhaps she felt guilty because of some other *sin. But in fact, God was not punishing her. Illness and death are often not the results of particular *sins (John 9:2-3). Sometimes God permits such things to happen in order to show his greatness to people. And we think that this happened here.
Elijah prayed. He asked God why this had happened. God did not give him a reason. Instead, he used Elijah to bring the boy back to life. Elijah’s actions in verse 21 may seem strange to us. We know that Elisha did this when another boy died (2 Kings 4:34). Paul did the same when Eutychus fell out of the window (Acts 20:10). It is God’s Spirit that gives life to people. In the Bible, a touch is often the means for God’s Spirit to pass from one person to another person (Mark 6:5; Mark 5:27-30; 2 Timothy 1:16). But Elijah did not just touch the body. He spread his complete body over the boy’s body. This shows the nature of his prayer. He did not just pray a simple prayer and then give up. Elijah’s prayer felt like a struggle against the power of death. (Compare Daniel 10:1-3; Daniel 10:12-13, and see Ephesians 6:12.)
Nothing seemed to happen initially. But Elijah repeated his actions until God answered his prayer. This *miracle convinced the widow that Elijah was a man of God. She was also sure that his words were true.
God was showing his power, by means of Elijah. Such *miracles were very important, because they showed the greatness of God’s power. During Elijah’s life, the *Israelites were *worshipping *Baal. The *worship of *Baal was against the *worship of God. It was very important that people should see God’s power.
Sometimes God does things in our lives that we do not understand. Like Elijah, we may ask questions as to why he does them. In the end, we have to trust God. He knows what he is doing. We may say to him what Peter replied to Jesus. Jesus had asked Peter if he would leave him. This was Peter’s reply: ‘*Lord, we cannot go to anybody else! Only you speak the words that give *everlasting life.’ (See John 6:68.)
God sends Elijah to King Ahab
There had been no rain for three years. Elijah had spent one year by the stream. Then he had spent two years with the widow. Now it was the right time to meet Ahab.
Obadiah was a good man who gave honour to the *Lord. The king trusted him and gave him a good place with the king. Obadiah was still loyal to God.
We can see that Queen Jezebel was already very wicked. She was trying to force everyone to *worship only the false gods called *Baal and Ashtoreth. So she had decided to kill all the *prophets of the *Lord.
It is interesting that there were still so many *prophets of the *Lord. For many years since the rule of Jeroboam, people had *worshipped *idols in *Israel. This was the official religion, and most people followed it. But it is clear that a large number of people were still *worshipping the *Lord.
Among those people was Obadiah, who seems to be Ahab’s chief official. At great personal risk Obadiah hid the *prophets. They were in two caves. Obadiah gave them food and water.
The king told Obadiah to help him in order to find water for the horses. Some people think that Ahab had over 2000 of these.
Sometimes it is right for a good man to serve a bad ruler. He may then stop him doing bad deeds. Daniel served the kings in Babylon. We must always give honour to God. But often we can still work for people who do not respect him. We can show our belief by the things that we do. Jesus said, ‘Give the Emperor (the ruler of the country) what belongs to him. But give God what belongs to God’ (Luke 20:25).
Obadiah greeted Elijah in a manner that showed great honour for Elijah. Elijah then told Obadiah to tell the king that he was there. Obadiah was very afraid to do this. Obadiah was aware that Elijah was a great *prophet. Perhaps he had heard about the *miracles that Elijah had carried out by God’s power. So Obadiah was already expecting more *miracles. He was afraid that, perhaps, the *Spirit of God might take Elijah away. Then the king would be angry and he would kill Obadiah.
Obadiah then told Elijah what he had done to look after the *prophets. He worked for the king, but he served the *Lord. Elijah promised that he would meet the king. So Obadiah could be confident. He did not need to worry.
Ahab greeted Elijah in an unpleasant manner. People who serve God often have suffered such insults. In Acts 17:6 the crowd called Paul a maker of trouble. Paul did not deserve that insult, and Elijah did not deserve Ahab’s insult. Elijah said that Ahab had made trouble. Rain had stopped because he *worshipped *Baal gods. People thought that these gods would send rain for their crops. But really, the *Lord is the only God. Only he can send rain. And soon Elijah would prove that this is true.
Elijah *challenged Ahab to a meeting on *Mount Carmel. This mountain was one of the places where people gave honour to the *Baal gods. People from all the *tribes of *Israel came. So did the *prophets who led the *worship of the *Baal gods. Perhaps Ahab was afraid not to obey Elijah. Perhaps Ahab thought that he would do anything to get rain. So, on this occasion, Ahab obeyed Elijah. But Ahab still did not want to obey God.
Elijah and the *prophets of *Baal
This is a very powerful story. The purpose of the event was to show which God was the real God. The other was not really a god. The people wanted to mix the *worship of God with the *worship of *Baal. Elijah told the people that they could not do this. Like Joshua (Joshua 24:15), he told the people to chose the god whom they would serve.
Today, people still try to *worship different gods. They *worship the *Lord when they want his help. But they are not loyal to God. Usually, they prefer their own false gods. Sometimes those false gods are the *idols of false religions. But many people do not even realise when they are *worshipping false gods. Popular false gods today include money, ambition and power. Other false gods include sex, pleasure and luxury. People begin to love these things until such things become the most important things in their lives. They believe that such things provide a successful or worthwhile life. So these people think about such things in the same manner as other people think about *idols.
But the real God does not allow people to *worship any false god (Deuteronomy 5:8-9). In fact, people have long *worshipped things like money and sex as gods. Jesus warned people that they must not *worship money (Matthew 6:24). And Paul mentioned people who *worship the human body as a god (Romans 1:24-25). So still today, people must choose the god whom they will serve. And any god who is not the *Lord, is a false god. Everyone who *worships a false god is wasting their time. Only the real God can provide a person with a worthwhile life. Only the real God can answer prayer. Only the real God can save a person from *sin and hell. And as Elijah would prove, only the real God could send fire on *Mount Carmel.
Elijah allowed the *prophets of *Baal to pray to their god first. There were more of them. They prayed in the manner that their religion ordered. When *Baal did not answer their many prayers, they became more and more desperate. They shouted and they cut themselves. They hoped that their blood would make their god listen. (In Deuteronomy 14:1, the *Lord forbade his people to cut themselves.) Elijah laughed at them. If *Baal were a god, surely he would hear them. But perhaps he was thinking about something else. Perhaps he was too busy to answer their prayers. The *Lord is present everywhere (Psalm 139). But Elijah suggested that *Baal might be too weak to be a real god. Perhaps he had travelled elsewhere. The *Lord never sleeps. He is always looking after his people (Psalm 121:4). Elijah again suggested that *Baal was too weak. Perhaps he had gone to sleep and they should wake him up. The *prophets of *Baal shouted for another three hours until 3 o’clock in the afternoon, but nobody answered.
Like all false gods, their god was without any real power whatever. Sometimes a false god may seem to have some power. There are reports of magic and *miracles that come from false gods. These reports are often false. But if they are true, they are the work of the devil. The Bible does not deny that the devil still has some power (Ephesians 6:12; 1 Peter 5:8). But he always uses his power for wicked purposes. And he is much weaker than God is. Jesus, by his death, has already defeated the devil completely (1 Corinthians 15:55; Hebrews 2:14).
Elijah repaired an *altar that people had used to *worship God. He did this to show that he was not introducing a new religion. Instead he wanted to bring back the belief and *worship of the real God. He used 12 stones to show that all the people still belonged to God. Because of the events when Jeroboam became king, the 12 *tribes were in two separate countries. And the northern country, which Ahab ruled, was following different religions. But Elijah showed that God still cared about them all.
Elijah poured water (perhaps from the sea) to show that he was not cheating. Everyone could see that Elijah had not lit a fire. And the *altar was too wet for anyone to start a fire there.
Then Elijah prayed to God in a humble manner. He prayed that people would know two things. The first was that God was the real God. The second was that he was a God of *mercy. He still wanted the people to turn back to him. He still wanted to show them his kindness.
Suddenly, something happened that astonished all the people. Fire came down from the sky. The fire destroyed the *sacrifice and the *altar. It also burnt the soil and dried up the water. It seems that this event caused great terror. The *prophets of *Baal had failed. Elijah had proved that God was the real God. The people agreed but not all of them would continue to follow God. But Elijah acted quickly. With the help of the people, he killed the *prophets of *Baal. This was probably because of the command in Deuteronomy 13:13-15.
God told the *Israelites to kill those who led them to *worship other gods. We would not do that today, but, in Colossians 3:5 and 3:8, Paul uses a similar description. He is explaining how, with God’s help, Christians must end their own wrong desires. He writes this: ‘Kill the bad desires in you. These include wrong use of sex, wrong desires for sex and a strong desire for wealth and power. This is like when people give honour to *idols. You must remove anger, hate, insults and lies.’ If we really follow God, we will obey him.
God sends rain
Now it was clear that the *Lord was the real God. Elijah could then pray for rain. People would know that *Baal did not send it. This was clear because the *prophets of *Baal were dead. Elijah sent Ahab to eat and to drink. He had probably not done so all day.
Elijah went to pray. He probably thanked God for his answer by fire. Now he asked him to answer with water. He prayed on the top of Carmel on his own. He bent down because he was humble. He told his servant to look for a cloud. It would come up out of the sea. The servant came back 6 times. He said that he could not see anything. Elijah did not give up. He continued to pray until God answered his prayer (James 5:16-18).
Then at the 7th time, Elijah’s servant saw a small cloud. Elijah told Ahab to hurry home. God gave Elijah great strength to run with Ahab’s *chariot. Elijah ran 17 miles to Jezreel. On this occasion, Elijah went with Ahab. He did not want to oppose the king. He wanted to persuade him to *worship the *Lord.
God speaks to Elijah at *Mount Sinai
Ahab told Jezebel what Elijah had done. He also told her that Elijah had killed the *prophets of *Baal. Jezebel sent a message to Elijah. She said that she intended to kill him. In fact, she had made a serious promise to do this. She was very angry and she wanted Elijah to be afraid.
Elijah saw that he could not remain in *Israel. He was not afraid to die, as verse 4 mentions. But he did not want Jezebel to kill him. If she did, all his efforts would be in vain. She would say that she had overcome Elijah by the power of her gods. Therefore, she would say that her gods had defeated the *Lord.
It is a *sin to test the *Lord (Deuteronomy 6:16). So Elijah could not remain in a dangerous place where he would be forcing God to protect him. Elijah would not be trusting God, because God had not told him to remain there. So Elijah ran away. He came to a place of safety in Beersheba which the king of *Judah ruled. But even there, Elijah still felt great strain. Of course, he had a great experience on *Mount Carmel. But that experience was also a great struggle. Then he had run in front of Ahab’s *chariot. As a result, his body was very tired. The message from Jezebel was too much.
Elijah expected that the events on *Mount Carmel would turn the *Israelites back to God. He even hoped that he could persuade Ahab to *worship the *Lord. But Jezebel’s message proved that wicked people still controlled *Israel. Elijah saw that he was no better than the *prophets before him. They had been unable to turn the *Israelites back to God. And Elijah felt that he was unsuccessful too.
Elijah could not go on any longer. He ran away so that Jezebel would not kill him. Now he asked God to allow him to die. Then he slept.
God sent an *angel who twice gave food and water to Elijah. This gave him sufficient strength to walk about 300 miles to *Mount Sinai. This was where God had given the Ten *Commandments. It took Elijah 40 days to reach the mountain. This was like when the *Israelites walked in the desert for 40 years. Some people think that the ‘*angel of the *Lord’ was the *Lord Jesus Christ himself.
In Philippians 4:13 Paul says this. ‘I can do everything by him (God) who gives me strength.’ Sometimes Christians today feel great strain, as Elijah did. We should encourage them to trust God completely. When we work for God, sometimes we feel great strain. Our task seems too difficult for anyone to achieve. But, if we are really working for God, we do not achieve his purposes by human effort. It is God who uses us in order to achieve his purposes. Elijah felt that his task was too hard. But his duty was simply to do what God ordered. The *Lord would achieve the results that he intended.
Centuries before, Moses saw the *glory of God. Moses had this wonderful experience when he was in a cave on *Mount Sinai (Exodus 33:12-23). Elijah travelled to that same mountain. And perhaps he was in the same cave. And in that special place, God spoke to Elijah. God asked Elijah what he was doing there.
Elijah replied that he had tried very hard to serve God. He wanted to bring the *Israelites back to *worship God. The events on Carmel had shown God’s power, but the people had not really changed. Elijah thought that he was alone. He considered himself to be the only person who still followed God. That was how Elijah felt. But we know that it was not accurate. Obadiah, the palace official, was still loyal to God. And the 100 *prophets whom Obadiah protected were loyal to God. Soon God would tell Elijah about many more *Israelites who were serving God.
Moses had gone into the cave when God’s *glory passed by. Elijah came out of the cave and he stood on the mountain. He heard a strong wind and he saw the movement of the earth. Then there was a fire. But God did not speak by any of these events. Of course, God can use powerful events. For example, he sent fire earlier, on *Mount Carmel. And he sent a storm when Elijah prayed for rain. But often, he speaks in a very gentle manner. In other words, his message comes quietly into our hearts, our minds or our spirits. If we allow strong emotions to control our thoughts, we shall not hear his message. Perhaps that is why Elijah did not hear God’s word immediately. Perhaps Elijah needed to wait until his heart was calm enough to receive God’s message.
At last, Elijah heard ‘a gentle whisper’. Then he covered his face. He knew that God was present. God repeated his question and Elijah gave the same answer. God heard Elijah’s list of problems. But God did not reply to them all. Instead, God gave Elijah a list of instructions. Sometimes, in our prayers, we try to tell God what we want to happen. But we must always remember that we are God’s servants. And he is our master and our King. He will decide what he wants to happen. And it is then our duty to obey him.
The instructions that God gave to Elijah were very important. God was making great changes that would affect the entire region. God was appointing two new kings. Each new king would organise a revolution to overcome the government in his own country. But God also gave personal instructions to Elijah. Elijah should appoint a man called Elisha to be *prophet in *Israel. Elijah did not have to do everything himself. Elisha would continue Elijah’s work. God would appoint the people whom he chose to carry out his work.
So God told Elijah to go and to appoint Hazael. Hazael would become king of Syria. Elijah must also appoint Jehu to be king of *Israel and Elisha to be a *prophet. Elijah did not appoint Hazael and Jehu himself. Elisha did. But Elijah did appoint Elisha.
God also explained that he would punish the *Israelites for their *sins. This would happen by means of a foreign enemy (Hazael), war (Jehu) and Elisha’s word.
Finally, God mentioned something else that would encourage Elijah. Elijah thought that he was the only follower of God. In fact, 7000 other *Israelites were still loyal to God. ‘The *Lord knows those people who are his.’ There are more Christians in the world than we sometimes think. God’s love is larger than people’s love. Matthew Henry was a British man who wrote a Commentary (a book to explain the Bible) about 300 years ago. He wrote, ‘We will meet many people in heaven. We did not think that some of them would be there.’
Elijah appoints Elisha
Elijah appointed Elisha first. Elisha was the last man that God told Elijah to appoint. In fact, Elisha would appoint the other men.
Elisha was working when Elijah appointed him. Elisha did not expect Elijah’s visit. Elisha was a wealthy farmer but he still ploughed the land. Elijah threw his coat over him. By this action, Elijah showed that Elisha would become a *prophet like him. Elisha realised this immediately. The life of a *prophet would be much more difficult than Elisha’s work as a wealthy farmer. Some people would hate him and they would oppose his message. But Elisha wanted to serve God. So Elisha considered this to be a wonderful opportunity. He did not hesitate. He left his *oxen and he ran after Elijah. And it seems that Elisha’s sudden reaction even surprised Elijah.
In the New Testament (the second part of the Bible), some men were fishing. They too did not hesitate when Jesus called them. They left their nets and they followed Jesus. See Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20.
Elisha asked if he could first say goodbye to his parents. Elijah did not stop him. He wanted Elisha to come with him because he genuinely wanted to come. Elisha had a meal in order to say goodbye to his family. But even at that meal, he showed that he would never return to his former occupation. He used his plough as fuel for the fire. He cooked his *oxen as food for the meal. Then he went and he became Elijah’s servant.
God allows Ahab’s army to defeat the army from Syria
Benhadad the king of Syria attacked Samaria. He led a vast army. And 32 other kings were supporting him. His army surrounded the city so that nobody could bring in food or drink.
But they could not enter the city easily. Ahab’s father, Omri, took care to build strong defences for the city. So Benhadad’s army stayed outside the city while Benhadad sent his agents to speak to Ahab.
Benhadad demanded that Ahab should give him all his silver and gold. He also wanted the best of Ahab’s wives and children. Ahab agreed to this. Probably, Ahab hoped that his offer would satisfy Benhadad. Then Benhadad would take his army elsewhere.
Instead, Benhadad demanded more. He would send his officials to take everything that had any value. Ahab talked to the people who advised him. They told him not to agree to these demands. They thought that it would be better to fight than to lose everything.
Benhadad replied that he intended to ruin Samaria completely. Ahab told him not to be too confident of success. But really, Ahab was in a desperate situation. He knew that his army was much weaker than Benhadad’s army. But the *Lord was using this situation to show Ahab that he (the *Lord) really is God.
The *prophet of God told Ahab that he would win the battle against Benhadad. Ahab was a very evil king, and he certainly did not deserve God’s help. But God showed his kindness to Ahab. God did this for two reasons:
(1) The *Israelites were still God’s people, although most *Israelites were not loyal to him. He wanted them to turn back to him.
(2) This would give Ahab an opportunity to change his ways. *Israel would defeat the proud soldiers from Syria. God was kind to his people. He gave them every opportunity to put their trust in him.
He sent the youngest of his soldiers to begin the attack. Behind them came the large army of 7000 men. Benhadad had drunk too much alcohol. He was very confident. As a result, he told his soldiers not to kill the young men who were attacking. But he was very foolish. The young *Israelites killed the soldiers who were trying to *capture them. When Benhadad’s army saw this, they were very afraid. They tried to run away. But a soldier cannot fight when his back is towards his enemies. So the *Israelites killed many more of Benhadad’s soldiers. The result was that the *Israelites won the battle.
The *prophet warned Ahab that the king of Syria would attack again in the spring. The king of Syria’s men supposed that they could explain *Israel’s success. They said that *Israel’s God was only a god of the hills. If the armies fought on the plains, the soldiers from Syria would defeat them. Therefore, the king of Syria used the winter time to prepare to attack. Instead of the kings, they appointed soldiers to lead the armies.
In those days, armies usually went to war during the spring. Then the weather was better for a fight. The *Israelite army seemed very small because the army from Syria was so large. But God sent a message to Ahab. He would show the soldiers from Syria that he was not just a god of the hills. He would give the *Israelites success over them.
The large numbers of people in the story are a problem. Perhaps ‘100 000 soldiers from Syria’ includes the soldiers that the *Israelites forced to leave the battle. Aphek was a small city east of the Sea of Galilee. Just to destroy the walls would not have killed 27 000 people. Perhaps this means that the soldiers in the city now had no protection. The *Israelites may have killed them.
Benhadad asked Ahab in a humble manner not to kill him. Ahab agreed for a political reason. He would need Benhadad’s help against Assyria. Benhadad promised to give back the cities that his *ancestors had taken from *Israel. He also allowed Ahab to trade in Damascus.
Ahab was very foolish to make this agreement. He had not learned the lesson that the *Lord was teaching him during these two battles. God had proved that he is able to protect his people. Twice he had given Ahab’s army success against a much larger army. But Ahab was not trusting the *Lord to protect him against Assyria. Instead, Ahab preferred to trust a large army and a powerful king. And that king happened to be Ahab’s enemy, Benhadad. In fact, Ahab’s peace agreement with Benhadad would not last. Ahab would die in a battle against Syria just three years afterwards.
The *Lord’s message to Ahab
The first *prophet asked another *prophet to hit him with his sword. But he did not. As a result, a lion killed him. That was what happened to the *prophet in chapter 13.
Perhaps this *prophet did not think that it was right to hit the first *prophet. The first *prophet’s request was very unusual. But it is clear that the second *prophet was refusing to obey God. And that is a very serious matter. Maybe the first *prophet had warned the other *prophet that God had ordered this. Or maybe the other *prophet knew for some other reason. Perhaps this event happened to warn Ahab. If a good man suffered in this manner, then a worse thing would happen to Ahab.
So the first *prophet found another man. We do not know whether that man was also a *prophet. But he obeyed and he hit the *prophet. The *prophet then stood by the road. He told the king a story. This was very much like the story that Nathan told David (2 Samuel 12:1-15). The purpose of the story was to make Ahab announce his own punishment. God had wanted Ahab to punish Benhadad. Instead, Ahab made an agreement with him. This showed that he did not trust God. As a result, Ahab died in a battle against the soldiers from Syria. Later the soldiers from Syria attacked the nation and it suffered greatly. God is fair when he punishes people for their *sins. Nobody will be able to say that he is not.
Queen Jezebel steals Naboth’s field
The law said that nobody must make a permanent sale of his land. People must not pass land from *tribe to *tribe. (See Leviticus 25:23; Numbers 36:7.)
Naboth was right to refuse the king. If Naboth sold the field to the king, he (Naboth) would not be obeying God’s law. So this was not merely a business matter or an ordinary argument. Naboth could not obey the king, because such an action would be against God’s law. So Naboth firmly refused Ahab’s request. Naboth chose to stand for God.
Ahab was angry. He had everything that he needed. But he was not happy without Naboth’s *vineyard. Jezebel promised to get the land for him. She thought that the king should be like a god. If Ahab did not behave like one, she would!
Jezebel plotted Naboth’s death. She used the king’s name and his mark. He did not know that she had done this. She organised a *religious meeting. She suggested that God was angry with the people because of some *sin. Two wicked people said that Naboth was responsible. They pretended that he had spoken badly about God and the king. When anyone spoke badly about God or the king, the punishment was death. The people killed Naboth and his sons. (See 2 Kings 9:26.)
When Ahab heard about this, he went down to take possession of Naboth’s field. By this action, Ahab showed that he approved of Jezebel’s deeds.
Naboth’s *trial was like the *trial of Jesus. In both cases, false witnesses said that they had spoken against God and the king. (See Luke 22:70-71; 23:1-3.) So, although Naboth was innocent, people killed him.
We can see that Ahab and Jezebel were becoming even more wicked. They were ready to use false (lying) witnesses to accuse people who upset them. And they were not afraid to kill an innocent man. But God knew about their *sin.
Elijah *prophesies the end of Ahab’s rule over *Israel
Elijah went to meet Ahab again. This time he came to tell Ahab that God would punish him. Ahab considered Elijah as his enemy.
Elijah told Ahab that all his family would die. They would not continue as kings. Their deaths would be awful and they would not even have proper graves.
Ahab then showed *sorrow for what he had done. He was not sorry enough to stop his *worship of *idols or to give back Naboth’s field. Still, God was willing to make his punishment less. *Disaster would not happen until after Ahab’s death. God will answer if people change their ways. He will do this even if their change is not perfect. God does not want anybody to suffer *everlasting death (2 Peter 3:9). He wants everyone to have life. But later, Ahab died as Elijah *prophesied. The wages of *sin is death (Romans 6:23). The punishment on his family happened later.
Ahab was a very wicked king. But in fact his wife, Jezebel, was responsible for many of his worst *sins. In these matters, Ahab was evil not because of his own cruelty, but because he was weak. We must never allow wicked people to control our actions. John wrote to a church where an evil woman was controlling some people. He warned the members of that church about her. They would suffer greatly if they continued to obey her. He called that woman by the name ‘Jezebel’ (Revelation 2:20-25).
The *prophet Micaiah
In chapter 20, Ahab (the king of *Israel) made an agreement with the king of Syria. That agreement was the reason why there was peace for almost three years. When the kings made that agreement, the king of Syria promised to return certain cities to *Israel.
However, Syria still controlled Ramoth-Gilead. This was a large city that belonged to the *tribe of Levi. It was a special city of safety (Joshua 20:8).
Ahab discussed this matter with Jehoshaphat, who was the king of *Judah. Jehoshaphat was a good king, who was loyal to the *Lord. We do not know why Jehoshaphat chose to have a friendly relationship with Ahab’s family. Ahab was a very wicked king.
Ahab asked Jehoshaphat to help him to fight for Ramoth-Gilead. Jehoshaphat agreed. His army would fight with Ahab’s army. It seems that both Jehoshaphat and Ahab considered Syria to be their enemy. But Jehoshaphat wanted the *prophets to give advice first. He wanted to know whether God approved of this plan.
Ahab asked 400 *prophets. We cannot be sure about the religion of these *prophets. They probably belonged to the religion that Jeroboam set up. So although they spoke about the *Lord, they were not really *prophets of the *Lord. In fact, they *worshipped *idols.
This was an impressive event. The kings wore their royal clothes. They sat on their royal seats by the city gates. This was the place where all public meetings happened. All 400 *prophets agreed that the battle would be successful. They spoke with great power. One *prophet called Zedekiah made *horns of iron. They represented the two kings in the fight against Syria.
Jehoshaphat listened to all these *prophets. But they could not convince him. He knew that they *worshipped *idols. And Jehoshaphat only *worshipped the *Lord. Jehoshaphat would not agree to go to war until he had heard the advice from a real *prophet of the *Lord.
Ahab had such a *prophet available, but he did not want to call him. That *prophet was Micaiah. Verse 26 shows that Micaiah was probably already in prison. Ahab would have put Micaiah there because he was angry about his *prophecies. Ahab complained that Micaiah’s *prophecies were always bad. But the truth was that Ahab did not like Micaiah’s *prophecies. Micaiah would only tell the king what God told him to say. But Ahab did not want to obey God. So Ahab was angry with this loyal *prophet. The man who called Micaiah warned him about the situation. His words mean, ‘Tell the king what he wants to hear.’ But Micaiah refused. He would only say what the *Lord had told him. A genuine *prophet never changes the *Lord’s message. Such a *prophet speaks the truth, even if everyone opposes him.
At the beginning, Micaiah repeated all that the other *prophets had said. Perhaps he was imitating them in order to show that their words disgusted him. Micaiah was saying the opposite of what he meant. Ahab realised this. He warned Micaiah not to laugh at him. Micaiah should only speak the message that the *Lord had given to him. The kings would not listen to anything else.
So Micaiah explained what the *Lord had shown to him. Unless someone looks after sheep, they wander. Unless someone leads an army, the soldiers scatter. God was not punishing the people. But he was punishing King Ahab, who was their leader. So Micaiah explained that the king would die. The army would return home without its leader. When Ahab was dead, there would be no reason to fight.
Then Micaiah described how God allowed the devil to make the people believe a lie. God allowed Micaiah to see a picture of what was happening in heaven. The event that Micaiah described was similar to the events in Job chapters 1 and 2.
Micaiah saw a very impressive scene. God was sitting on his royal seat. All the *angels were present. They stood behind him like a great army. God had arranged a meeting of his court because he had made an important decision about Ahab.
Ahab’s wicked rule over *Israel had continued for 22 years. During that period, God had sent several *prophets to warn Ahab about his behaviour. And God had been kind to Ahab. God even allowed Ahab to win battles against his enemies. But Ahab still continued his evil religion. And he still preferred the lies that his false *prophets told. Ahab had not turned to God. In fact, Ahab had become even more wicked.
So God had decided that Ahab’s opportunities to trust him had ended. The time was right for Ahab to die because of his *sins.
God had made his judgement. But God never does anything evil. He is perfect; he never carries out any evil deed. And he does not want anyone to suffer. The evil deeds that we see in the world are the work of the devil and his evil *spirits.
In the Book of Job, the devil was present at God’s court. But in this passage, an evil *spirit was present. Because this *spirit was evil, the *spirit wanted to make people tell lies. But God puts a limit on the power of evil things. So the *spirit could not act against Ahab until God allowed this.
That *spirit was the reason why so many *prophets told lies. And Ahab preferred to believe the false *prophets instead of the real message that came from God.
Zedekiah insulted Micaiah. He slapped him on the face. Zedekiah asked where Micaiah got the authority for his *prophecy. Micaiah did not give a proper reply. Instead, he gave a *prophecy about Zedekiah. Many people would have to hide after the army from Syria won the battle. They would be very afraid that they too might die. And Zedekiah would be among them. He would have to hide. And then he would know that Micaiah’s message really did come from God.
The king arrested Micaiah. He ordered people to feed him on just bread and water. Probably he intended to kill him as a punishment for a false *prophecy when he returned. But the king wanted Micaiah to see that he was wrong first.
The king’s words did not impress Micaiah. Micaiah knew that his message came from God. The king would not return alive from the battle. His death was certain. Only a false *prophet gave a message that was not true. The events during the battle would prove that Micaiah spoke by God’s power.
The death of King Ahab
It is surprising that Jehoshaphat continued to go with Ahab to battle. Micaiah had clearly warned Jehoshaphat that the battle would not be successful. But Micaiah only said that Ahab would die. So perhaps Jehoshaphat thought that he would be safe. Or perhaps Ahab was such an impressive person that Jehoshaphat did not want to disappoint him. Perhaps Jehoshaphat even felt that it would not be honourable to refuse to join in the battle. But, for whatever reason, Jehoshaphat went with Ahab to the battle. And Jehoshaphat seemed not to realise that he was taking a great risk. Ahab would even persuade Jehoshaphat to dress in a manner that would put him (Jehoshaphat) in great danger.
Ahab encouraged Jehoshaphat to put on the clothes of an army leader. Perhaps Ahab hoped that Jehoshaphat would think this to be an honour. Ahab did not wear his royal clothes. He realised that the king of Syria would be very angry with him. Ahab was not obeying the peace agreement that he made in 1 Kings 20:34. So Ahab thought that he could confuse the enemy soldiers. And, at the start of the battle, Ahab’s scheme did confuse them. But God knows the truth about everyone. The things that Micaiah *prophesied would happen. Nobody can ever confuse God.
We can see how angry the king of Syria was, by his instructions to his captains. The king of Syria ordered his men to aim at King Ahab. At first, they thought that Jehoshaphat was Ahab. They were confused because only Jehoshaphat was wearing royal clothes. But then Jehoshaphat shouted his battle cry. From this they knew that he was not Ahab. One man shot an arrow. Tradition says that this man was Naaman from Syria (2 Kings chapter 5). We do not know. He did not have a particular purpose but the arrow hit Ahab.
At first, King Ahab left the battle. Then however, he stayed in his *chariot and he encouraged his men to attack. That evening he died and the *Israelite soldiers were without their leader. They had to escape to their homes.
Ahab’s officials buried the king in Samaria. So Ahab’s body had a proper grave, unlike the bodies of his *descendants (1 Kings 21:24; 21:29). Ahab’s officials washed the *chariot in a pool. But there was much blood on this *chariot. The blood attracted dogs. The dogs *licked the king’s blood. So Elijah’s *prophecy came true (1 Kings 21:19). Ahab’s death was in 853 *B.C.
Jehoshaphat’s rule as king of *Judah
Next, there is a short account of the rule of Jehoshaphat king of *Judah. He followed the good ways of his father Asa. He did not remove the places of *worship on the hills. But he removed the males who sold their bodies for sex in the *worship of *Baal.
There was no king in Edom because *Judah still controlled it. Eziongeber was in Edom. Jehoshaphat intended to use this port in a trading scheme that could make him very wealthy. Solomon had succeeded with a similar scheme (1 Kings 9:26-28). Jehoshaphat tried to work with Ahaziah, Ahab’s son. But Jehoshaphat’s scheme failed. A storm destroyed the ships.
2 Chronicles 20:35-37 contains more information about this event. God would not allow the plan to succeed. He did not want Jehoshaphat to have such a close relationship with Ahab’s family. When Ahaziah again invited Jehoshaphat to trade, Jehoshaphat refused. Jehoshaphat realised because of the storm that the *Lord did not want him to continue this agreement.
Ahaziah’s rule as king of *Israel
Ahaziah only ruled for two years. Like Ahab, Jezebel and Jeroboam, he was a very evil ruler. He made God very angry.
altar ~ a table on which people offer or burn gifts or *sacrifices to a god.
Amorite ~ one of a group of people who had lived in Canaan before the *Jews lived there.
ancestor ~ any person from the past from whom the families of your father or mother have come.
angel ~ a servant of God who is in heaven or who comes from heaven.
armour ~ a soldier’s clothing which he wears for protection.
B.C. ~ years before Christ was born.
Baal ~ a false god.
bless/blessing ~ God does good things and protects people; or, the good things that he does.
borrow ~ to take something that belongs to someone else. They permit you to use it and you intend to return it.
bow ~ to lower the head or the body; this action shows that you respect someone.
break a promise ~ not to do what you promised.
bull ~ the male animal that mates with a cow.
burden ~ a heavy thing to carry; or, a difficult duty.
burnt offering ~ a gift to God where people burnt a whole animal on the *altar.
Canaanites ~ the people who were the original inhabitants of the country that became *Israel.
capture ~ to take someone or something and keep it. Not to allow freedom.
captured ~ a description of someone who becomes a prisoner during a battle.
carve/carving ~ people cut away material from wood or stone.
cattle ~ cows and *bulls.
cedar ~ a tall tree whose leaves are always green. Or, the wood from this tree. This wood has a sweet smell.
celebrate/celebration ~ to praise a person and to give honour to that person. Or, to show great happiness at a special event.
challenge ~ to invite someone to fight; or to invite someone to prove something.
chariot ~ a cart with two wheels that soldiers used. Horses pulled it.
commandment ~ any of the laws that God gave to *Israel, especially the Ten Commandments.
conquer ~ to take control of a country or group of people by force.
courtyard ~ an open space with walls or fences round it.
covenant ~ an agreement between two people or groups. Or, especially, the agreement between God and his people. The ‘Covenant Box’ was the most sacred object in the *temple.
curse ~ words that somebody uses in order to hurt someone else.
decorate ~ to make something beautiful by means of a delicate or attractive design.
deer ~ an animal that is smaller than a cow.
descendants ~ people in your family who live after you.
destroy ~ to damage something so badly that it no longer works; or, to kill almost all the people in a group.
dew ~ small round balls of water which form on cool surfaces outdoors at night.
disaster ~ an event that makes people suffer. It can cause great damage and death.
everlasting ~ without beginning or end.
exile ~ to be away from one’s country as a punishment.
faith ~ trust; strong belief.
fellowship offering ~ an offering was a gift to God. People shared fellowship offerings and they ate food together.
festival ~ a *celebration that remembers a person or an event.
Festival of bread that would not rise ~ this reminded people about the time when the *Jews left Egypt. They had to leave quickly. So they had to bake their bread before it had time to rise.
Festival of Shelters ~ people built shelters to live in for a week. This reminded them of their *ancestors’ journey through the desert.
Festival of Weeks ~ when the *Israelites thanked God for the wheat harvest; it happened 7 weeks after the Passover (an annual ceremony to remember God’s rescue of the *Jews from Egypt).
forgiveness ~ when somebody decides to forgive a person who has done something wrong. The person who forgives is not still angry with that other person.
frame ~ a border of wood in which people fix a door or part of a piece of furniture.
gazelle ~ a small animal with *horns that runs fast.
glory ~ fame and honour.
grace ~ God’s *mercy and kindness which are free gifts to us.
grapes ~ green or purple soft fruits that people use to make wine.
hinge ~ a small piece of metal on which a door or gate turns as it opens.
Hittite ~ one of a group of people who had lived in Canaan before the *Jews lived there.
holy ~ morally good; something people consider very important in their religion.
horn ~ a growth on heads of *cattle or *deer.
idol ~ the image of a god to whom people give honour.
incense ~ a substance that people use in *religious *celebrations. It has a pleasant smell.
Israel ~ the country or nation of people who are *descendants of Jacob; the northern part of that country after it divided.
Israelite ~ someone who lives in *Israel; or, a *descendant of Jacob.
Jew ~ a person who was born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children; an *Israelite.
Judah ~ one of the *tribes of *Israel. The southern part of the *Jewish *kingdom after it divided.
keep a promise ~ do what you promised to do.
kingdom ~ a country or nation that a king or a queen rules.
Levite ~ a member of the *tribe of Levi; a servant in the *temple.
lick ~ to taste with the tongue.
Lord ~ the name of God. It can translate either of two words in Hebrew, which is the original language of this book. The word ‘Yahweh’ is God’s most holy name, and means ‘God always’. The word ‘Adonai’ means ‘master’.
majesty ~ a word that people use in order to give great honour to a king.
mercy ~ kindness or *forgiveness instead of punishment.
miracle ~ a wonderful work that God does by his power and which human knowledge cannot explain.
Mount ~ a short word for mountain; small mountain.
mule ~ an animal that is born after a horse mates with a similar animal called a donkey. A mule can carry heavy *burdens.
offerings ~ *religious gifts.
olive/olive oil ~ a bitter green or black fruit; oil from this fruit.
ox (oxen ) ~ a strong farm animal that can pull the plough.
panel ~ wood that covers a door, wall or other structure. It is usually higher or lower than the area round it.
peace ~ the absence of war; friendship between people and groups.
pine ~ tree that grows on mountains; or the wood from it.
pomegranate ~ a large fruit with many seeds.
presence ~ the place where somebody is.
prophecy ~ what people say when they *prophesy.
prophesy ~ to speak God’s word; or, to say what will happen in the future.
prophet ~ a person who *prophesies.
rebellion/rebel ~ fight against authority; someone who does this.
rectangular ~ a shape with four sides, two of which are longer than the other two.
reject ~ to refuse to accept someone or something.
religious ~ about religion.
rod ~ a thin straight piece of wood or metal.
sacrifice ~ something valuable that people offered to a god.
scorpion ~ a dangerous small animal that stings people.
shield ~ something that soldiers carry to protect their body from attack.
sign ~ a thing or event that has a special meaning. It shows that somebody or something is present; or it shows that something will happen.
sin/sinful ~ an action that is wrong or wicked. It is against a *religious or moral law.
sorrow ~ sad feelings.
soul ~ the *spiritual part of a person that exists after death.
spices ~ substances with a strong taste or smell; people take them from plants and they use them to cook with.
spiral ~ something that moves in a continuous curve round a central point.
spirit ~ the part of a person that is alive, which we cannot see. Also, there are spirits that we cannot see; such spirits can be good or bad. The word may also refer to God’s *Holy Spirit.
spiritual ~ about man’s *spirit or *soul, not physical things.
temple ~ the central place of *worship that Solomon built in Jerusalem; or, a place where people *worship a false god.
trial ~ something that will show whether a person has done something wrong or not.
tribe ~ a group of people; a family or people that have the same *ancestors; family from one man. *Israel came from the 12 sons of Jacob. These 12 families formed the 12 tribes of *Israel.
trumpet ~ an instrument that people blow in order to play.
vineyard ~ an area where people grow *grapes.
weapons ~ tools of war, for example swords, which people use to cause pain, injury and death.
worship ~ to praise God and to give thanks to him; to show honour to God; to say that we love him very much. But some people worship false gods instead of the real God.
E M Blaiklock ~ Bible Characters and Doctrines
Alister McGrath ~ NIV Bible Commentary ~ Hodder and Stoughton
Lion Handbook to the Bible ~ Lion Publishing Plc
New Bible Commentary (First and revised editions) ~ Inter-Varsity Press
Matthew Henry’s Commentary
Bibles ~ N.I.V, N.E.B & R.S.V
© 2006-2007 Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
Visit our website: