“Introduction to 1 Kings,” Old Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2014)
“1 Kings,” Old Testament Study Guide
The book of 1 Kings provides an account of the death of David, the reign of his son Solomon, and the decline and division of the kingdom of Israel after Solomon and many of his successors turned to idol worship. It also recounts the ministry of the prophet Elijah among the northern ten tribes of Israel. By studying this book, you can learn truths that will help you understand the importance of worshipping the Lord in His temple, marrying in the covenant, making righteous choices, and listening to the still, small voice of the Lord.
“The books [of 1 and 2 Kings] were compiled by some unknown writer from a variety of written documents, including the state chronicles” (Bible Dictionary, “Kings, books of”). The state chronicles were not the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles but rather a collection of records maintained under the direction of the kings of Israel.
It is unclear when and where the books of 1 and 2 Kings were written. At one time, 1 and 2 Kings were a single book called Kings. The division that created the current books of 1 and 2 Kings took place when the Bible was translated into Greek. (See Bible Dictionary, “Kings, books of.”)
The books of 1 and 2 Kings cover more than 400 years of Israelite history, starting with the death of King David (approximately 1015 B.C.) and concluding with the death of King Jehoiachin (sometime after approximately 561 B.C.). These books are rich in history and doctrine, and they provide background and context for a significant portion of the Old Testament. For example, in the book of 1 Kings we read about the rise of King Solomon, who built and dedicated a temple to the Lord. The book of 1 Kings also explains that Solomon married women outside of the covenant. Many of these women turned Solomon’s heart away from the Lord and toward the worship of false gods (see 1 Kings 11:4–8). Solomon’s decision to turn away from the Lord eventually led to widespread idolatry in Israel and the division of the kingdom.
Additionally, the book of 1 Kings introduces the reader to the bold and noble prophet Elijah. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that Elijah “holds the keys of the authority to administer in all the ordinances of the Priesthood” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 310). “The power of Elijah is the sealing power of the priesthood by which things that are bound or loosed on earth are bound or loosed in heaven [see D&C 128:8–18]” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Elijah”; scriptures.lds.org). Through the power of the priesthood, Elijah caused a three-and-a-half-year-long drought, raised the dead, called down fire from heaven, and prophesied the downfall of King Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, who together ruled in wickedness in the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
1 Kings 1–11. Before his death, King David has his son Solomon anointed king. Solomon rules his kingdom with great wisdom. Solomon builds a temple and his palace at Jerusalem, beginning the period known as the “golden age of Israel.” The Queen of Sheba visits Solomon. Solomon’s wives lure him away from worshipping the Lord and encourage him to worship false gods. Solomon’s kingdom is threatened by Jeroboam.
1 Kings 12–16. All the tribes of Israel except Judah and Benjamin rebel against Solomon’s son Rehoboam. The kingdom is divided, and Jeroboam becomes the ruler of the Northern Kingdom (also known as Israel), leaving Rehoboam to rule the Southern Kingdom (also known as Judah). Jeroboam and Rehoboam both establish idol worship in their kingdoms, and many rulers of both kingdoms follow this pattern of idol worship.
1 Kings 17–22. The prophet Elijah causes a drought in the land. He raises a widow’s son from the dead. With great power from God, Elijah competes with the priests of Baal and shows that Jehovah is God. After this miracle, Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab and a supporter of Baal, tries to kill Elijah. Elijah travels to Mount Horeb, where the Lord speaks to him in a still, small voice. Elijah meets Elisha, who will succeed him as prophet. Elijah prophesies the deaths of Ahab and Jezebel. Following Ahab’s death, Ahaziah, the son of Ahab, reigns in wickedness.