Monday, February 25, 2013

CXIX - I Kings

Author:  Unknown
Date Written:  590-570 BC

You're going to like this book more than you think.  I will attempt to give insight to the progression of Israel and the reasons they went the way they did.  I Kings and II Kings cover quite a lengthy span of History.  We tend to forget the many generations that have passed when we ponder the shifts in the Hebrew nation as a society.  These books will actually take us to the destruction of Israel and its exile, and our study will reveal how this nation of God's chosen people ended up in such a pitiful state.  When my daughter Stephanie was reading Kings and Chronicles she posed questions to me to gain some insight to the various kings and the divided kingdom.  One must have at least a minimum of knowledge of the rest of the Old Testament in order to "connect" the events in these books.  That is why it is necessary to study these books properly for an understanding of the progression of the religious and the social deterioration of Israel.  Also, remember that the remaining books in the Old Testament are of events in this same time period we are about to study.

To review briefly:  Nearly a century earlier, Samuel reluctantly laid the foundation for the kingdom that Soloman ruled.  In Samuel's era, Israel subscribed to the ideal that God was the Ruler or King, Who placed judges territorially to maintain order among the people and promote justice.  Samuel knew this was the perfect government system, but the people damanded a king.  Their reasons were less than pure.  (Actually, the main reason was that they wanted to be like other nations in Canaan.
 Very lame.)  So Samuel annointed Saul as king over Israel.  Saul attempted to establish the kingdom, but his attitude led his reign down a path of destruction which ultimately led to military defeat and suicide.  Due to Saul's rebellion, God had Samuel annoint David as king even before Saul's reign ended.  David's training began in Saul's royal court.  He fought in Saul's army and married Saul's daughter Mical.  David's best friend was Saul's son Jonathan.  As David grew in maturity and favor in the eyes of God and man, Saul tried to kill him.  Forty years after Saul's death, although he seemed to struggle at times, David united Israel's tribes and kept them unified as one nation.  David knew it was God's intent all along that the twelve tribes would become one nation that would lead the whole world to the knowledge of God and His purpose.  David wanted to build a permanant temple for God, but God would not give him permission to do this.  As David grew old, Israel began to wonder who would succeed David as king.  Amnon (David's first-born son) was dead.  Absalom (perhaps considered most capable) was also dead.  And remember that this is a nation in its infant stages and there was no precedent having been set, nor was this addressed in the law handed down by Moses.

The author of First and Second Kings is not named in Scripture.  The Jewish Mishnah credited the prophet Jeremiah as the author.  That might be correct, but the timing of the writing seems to be when Jeremiah was in Egypt, and the vantage point seems to be Babylon.  But in defense of the Jewish Mishnah, God could do anything He wanted to through a man such as Jeremiah.  Although the two books of Kings are one work in the Hebrew Bible, it appears that I Kings was completed earlier than II Kings.  Both were completed by 550 BC.  I Kings seems to have been written to show Israel's
unfaithfulness to God's covenant and the subsequent judgement that God placed on the entire nation.  After we finish the first Book of Kings, you will understand why Israel fell as a nation.  {You will also understand how a nation is influenced by its leader.  And in a democracy, we must be very careful who we place in leadership positions.}  Our study of this Book will take us from the death of David and the reign of Soloman, to the fall of the house of Omri.  We'll see how kings can allow,
promote, or resist the influence of pagan religions to penitrate its society.  Much attention in the earlier parts of I Kings is given to the building of the Temple in Jerusalem.  I want to provoke some thoughtfulness to this in hopes to perhaps influence one's attitude toward worship.  The latter portion of this Book will shift focus to the great prophet Elijah and his influence.  But in the future, as we will reflect back on our study of the Book of I Kings, we will remember how the various kings, both good and bad, had a tremendous influence on their subjects and would determine the destiny of this great nation that, in spite of all the failures, will have risen again and will again take its place as the nation which will point the world to God.

In the next post: I Kings, Chapter 1.  David dies.

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