Day 292: 1 Kings 1
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1-4: When we left 2 Samuel David did not seem to be slowing down with age, but now we have moved rather suddenly to find David as an old man who is always cold. So they provide a young girl to take care of him; day and night of course, but we are assured nothing untoward happens.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 5-8: In the king’s dotage other pretenders to the throne arise. Prince Adonijah was the 4th son born to David at Hebron (2 Samuel 3:4). He decides it is time to make his claim on the throne, with Joab and Abiathar supporting him — pretty powerful support. Joab is overall commander of the armed forces and Abiathar had been David’s staunch ally during the Absalom affair. Adonijah is a good looking guy like his brother Absalom, but a spoiled brat — that’s what verse 6 means. David was a great warrior and poet, but a terrible father. Adonijah starts putting on airs like his brother Absalom (see 2 Samuel 15:1). But Adonijah does not have the support of some key palace and temple officials: Zadok the high priest; Benaiah, one of David’s trusted military commanders; the prophet Nathan; Shimei, probably David’s brother (2 Samuel 21:21); and Rei, who is not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible. All of these stick with David.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 9-10: Adonijah throws a big party at En-rogel a couple of miles out of town and invites the other princes except Solomon, and other dignitaries except Nathan and Benaiah. This is the same kind of ploy Absalom used (2 Samuel 15:7-12). Want to overthrow your father the king? Have big barbeque (beef only, of course) and invite all the bigwigs.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 11-14: The prophet Nathan makes the counter move. He talks to Bathsheba and tells her that Adonijah has proclaimed himself king. But has he? No such pronouncement has actually been made. Nathan uses that premature alarm to engage Bathsheba in a ruse to put Solomon on the throne. Nathan is protecting his own interests, you understand, because he knows that if Adonijah becomes king he may be in trouble. He tells Bathsheba to go in to the king and remind him that Solomon is to succeed him. However, if you review all that has gone before, such a promise was never made to Bathsheba. Nathan is making this up, knowing that David is doddering and probably won’t remember that he never officially tagged Solomon as his successor. Tell him Adonijah has made himself king, says Nathan, and then I’ll come in, pretending not to know you’re there.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 15-21: Bathsheba goes to David. Nathan has alarmed her because if Solomon does not succeed David she, too, is in trouble. She follows Nathan’s advice, “reminding” David that he has picked Solomon, but that Adonijah has tried to usurp the throne and she is worried that she and Solomon will be cast aside (dead, of course).
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 22-27: Nathan arrives on cue. Adonijah, he says, has thrown a big party and the invitation list is suspicious. Did the king know about this? Did the king decide Adonijah would succeed him without telling Nathan and Zadok and Benaiah? Why, such a thing would be unthinkable. Nathan’s own words convict him because he confirms that David hasn’t told anybody who is to succeed him.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 28-31: David sends for Bathsheba, who apparently had departed when Nathan came in. He tells her that he will keep his word to her and make Solomon king. She bows to the floor and says, “May my lord King David live forever!” Sure.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 32-37: David summons Zadok, Nathan and Benaiah and tells them to take Solomon to the spring called Gihon on the edge of town and anoint him king over Israel. Then they are to blow the horn and form a noisy procession to the palace and seat Solomon on David’s throne. Benaiah, the military guy, utters the hope that Solomon will be greater than David. I wonder what David thought of that sentiment?
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 38-40: They take Solomon, accompanied by Benaiah’s mercenary troops, down to the spring, anoint him king, blow the horn and shout, “Long live King Solomon,” then form a procession into the city, raising a ruckus. The mercenary soldiers are always nearby, aren’t they?
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 41-48: Adonijah and his company hear the noise a couple of miles away at En-rogel. Joab is the first to be alarmed. Jonathan, son of Abiathar, another ally of David during the Absalom affair, brings the news. Solomon has been crowned, with the king’s compliance. That makes Solomon’s claim secure, and they all know it.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 49-53: Adonijah runs to the altar. We aren’t sure where this is, exactly, since the temple is not yet built, but it is obviously recognized as a place of neutral ground and he runs there for protection. Perhaps it is on the former threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. Solomon’s first act as king is to let his half-brother off the hook for the time being. You can bet that won’t last long.
Day 293: 1 Kings 2
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1-4: Knowing he doesn’t have much time, an old and often disoriented King David gives instructions to his heir apparent, Solomon. First, he says, be strong. Second, be courageous. And third, keep the Law of Moses. Be strong, be brave, be righteous; a pretty good formula for success. If Solomon can do that, David’s dynasty will last.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 5-9: But now down to specifics. He tells Solomon to deal with Joab. (Why had David let that man get away with so much?) He tells him to treat the sons of Barzillai well because of Barzillai’s kindness to him when Absalom had sought to overthrow him (2 Samuel 17:37, 19:31-34). And he tells Solomon to repay Shimei for his offenses (2 Samuel 16:5-13, 19:16-23).
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 10-12: David breathes his last. Curiously, there is no mention of mourning rites or even the place of burial. The text flows smoothly from the reign of David to the reign of Solomon without so much as a sigh of remorse.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 13-18: Adonijah wastes no time in challenging Solomon. He tries a clever plan to gain access to the inner workings of the palace by asking the Queen Mother, Bathsheba, to ask Solomon to let him marry Abishag. Abishag is the young beauty who had been David’s attendant in his dotage.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 19-25: Perhaps Bathsheba was too naïve to think ill of Adonijah or perhaps custom required that she report the requests of any member of the royal family. In any case she makes the request of Solomon, who immediately perceives a threat and reacts angrily, suspecting it to be a plot hatched by Abiathar and Joab. He has Adonijah executed by Benaiah. (Solomon himself never personally kills anybody, unlike David.)
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 26-27: Next he deals with Abiathar. He is banished to his estate in Anathoth. The writer sees this as a fulfillment of the word God gave to Samuel concerning old Eli the priest, whose sons had acted so blasphemously (‘way back in 1 Samuel 3:11-14).
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 28-35: Joab gets his due next. Having heard that Solomon has banished Abiathar, he seeks refuge at the altar of the LORD. Solomon is not about to honor the tradition of the altar as a refuge and orders Benaiah to kill him there. Benaiah tries to talk Joab away from the altar, but Joab clings to it. Benaiah is more reluctant than Solomon to kill a man at the altar, and goes back to make sure that’s what the king wants him to do. Solomon sends him again, and Benaiah puts Joab to death. They bury him at his own house. So ends the career of one of Israel’s most powerful and unscrupulous leaders. He is replaced by Benaiah as commander of Israel’s armies, and Zadok replaces Abiathar as high priest.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 36-38: Shimei is summoned next, and ordered to build a house in Jerusalem and never to leave the city. Shimei is happy to agree.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 39-46: But, after three years I guess he figures one quick trip will be overlooked. After all, a man has a right to reclaim his slaves, doesn’t he? At least, so Shimei thought. Solomon wastes no time in having him put to death. So, by using Benaiah as his “hit man” and thus never getting blood on his own hands, Solomon has carried out all David’s orders – except maybe the one about being righteous.
Day 294: 1 Kings 3
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1-2: Solomon wastes no time in securing an alliance with Egypt, the major power to the south of Israel. He marries the Pharaoh’s daughter. We note that early on Solomon planned to build his own palace as well as a temple, but nothing is said about the disposition of David’s domicile. Something is said, unfortunately, about the religious disposition of Solomon’s subjects: they make sacrifices wherever they please.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 3-9: Solomon loves the LORD, but makes sacrifices on the high places himself, which is not a good thing. Still, God appears to him at Gibeon and offers to give him whatever he desires. Solomon is said to have asked for “wisdom.” The NRSV renders it “an understanding mind.” The Hebrew words literally mean “a heart that listens.” That is a wonderful request, but Solomon adds that he wants to be able to discern between good and evil. In other words, you might say he wants to partake of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 10-14: God is pleased at Solomon’s request, and says he will make Solomon rich and powerful as well. Solomon will be the most magnificent king who ever rules Israel.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 15: Of course, it was all a dream, but Solomon claims it as his authorization to proceed as he wishes. He goes back to Jerusalem and offers more sacrifices at the site of the Ark of the Covenant (where he probably should have been in the first place).
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 16-28: The story of the two women and their babies is probably the best known story from the reign of Solomon. One baby dies and both claim the living one. Solomon’s “solution” is ridiculous, but does result in his being able to identify the baby’s real mother. Apparently the “false” mother would rather that both of them lose their children than be the only one bereft. Solomon is acclaimed for his handling of the situation.
Day 295: 1 Kings 4
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1-6: Solomon’s administration is organized along the same lines as David’s (see 2 Samuel 8:15-18). It is surprising to see Abiathar listed as one of the priests since Solomon banished him earlier (2:27). We also note that someone is put in charge of “forced labor.”
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 7-19: In addition to the forced labor, the king claims a portion of the produce of the land, and divides the land into twelve districts. We note that two of the district governors (Ben-abinadab in verse 11 and Ahimaaz in verse 15) are Solomon’s sons-in-law. Someone is also put over Judah, but is not named, and Judah is not included in the 12 districts. Apparently Judah is not required to support the king’s table; another sore spot that will come into play later on.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 20-21: A happy kingdom is reported: actually, two happy kingdoms — Judah and Israel. Have you noticed the increasing distinction between them?
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 22-28: Solomon’s opulence is described in great detail.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 29-34: Solomon’s wisdom and great learning becomes famous throughout the region.
Day 296: 1 Kings 5
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1-6: Solomon contracts with King Hiram to provide cedar for the building of the temple in Jerusalem. David did not build the temple, he says, because he was too busy fighting wars. But now the land is at peace, so the time has arrived.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 7-12: Hiram confirms the contract. His workers will cut the timber, take the logs to the Mediterranean Sea, use them to build rafts and float them down the coast to a place of Solomon’s choosing, and dismantle the rafts so the logs can be transported inland by Solomon’s workers. Solomon will pay for the wood with wheat and oil. They become very strong allies, but you might notice that the arrangement doesn’t allow for either country to send thousands of workers into the territory of the other.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 13-18: An accounting of Solomon’s labor force is given. They are not for the most part hired laborers. They are conscripted, or drafted, from among the populace to work in three shifts, each having one month on and two months off. This is not as cruel as it sounds; in an agrarian economy it was not disastrous for a third of the workers to be away from their fields and herds for a month at a time. 30,000 are sent to the coastal border of Lebanon to bring the timber (apparently Solomon didn’t want Hiram’s men to float the rafts too far down his coast), and 150,000 to work in stone quarries in the hills.
Day 297: 1 Kings 6
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1-6: A detailed description of the temple dimensions is given. For an estimate, multiply the measurements in cubits by 1.5 to get feet. (20 cubits roughly equals 30 feet.)
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 7: One amazing detail: the temple is constructed more or less noiselessly.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 8-10: It is hard to picture exactly how the structure looks. You can go on line and find numerous artists’ renditions of Solomon’s temple.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 11-13: During the construction Solomon receives assurance that he is doing what God wants him to do, and that God will in turn never forsake the children of Israel.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 14-22: It must have smelled wonderful in there with all that cedar and cypress covering the walls, and beautiful with the gold plate covering the wood.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 23-28: Two huge cherubs are fashioned out of olive wood, plated with gold, and placed in the inner sanctuary, reminding us of the golden cherubim with which Moses had adorned the lid for the ark.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 29-32: The walls and floors and even the doors are overlaid with gold, and carved with cherubim, palm trees and flowers.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 33-36: Cherubim, palm trees, and flowers of gold everywhere.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 37-38: Reading back over the description of the construction, you would think Solomon did all the work personally. Verse 14 says, “Solomon built the house,” and throughout the description we find that “he” built this and “he” carved that and “he” overlaid it all with gold. It took 7 years for the temple to be completed. That’s impressive, but it only took God 7 days to make everything else. And God even took a day off.
Day 298: 1 Kings 7
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1: Solomon has taken 7 years to build the temple, the “house of the LORD” (6:38). Now it takes 13 years to build his personal domicile. It makes you kind of wonder about his priorities, doesn’t it?
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 2-5: His palace consists of a number of units, beginning with the House of the Forest of Lebanon, which seems to have been a kind of armory, perhaps for the palace guards (see 10:17). It was massive, much larger than the temple.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 6: Next he builds the Hall of Pillars, about half the size of the House of the Forest of Lebanon. This building is not mentioned elsewhere, and may have been an open structure to be used for various gatherings.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 7: He builds the Hall of the Throne next, where he would sit as the king and the nation’s primary judge, the highest authority in any dispute. The dimensions of this building are not given, but apparently consist of two main compartments; the throne room and the Hall of Justice. This building is not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 8: Solomon’s personal residence is next along with the house he builds for Pharaoh’s daughter (see 3:1). Again, the dimensions are not given.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 9-12: All the buildings are erected on a foundation of massive cut stones and lined with cedar.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 13-14: The Hiram of Tyre named here is not the King of Tyre but rather an Israelite craftsman from the tribe of Naphtali who lives in the city of Tyre and is renowned for his artistic ability.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 15-22: Our historian gives an elaborate description of two majestic bronze pillars fashioned by Hiram. It is not clear exactly where these were situated, but they must have been magnificent. He names them “Jachin” and “Boaz.” Jachin was a son of Simeon and grandson of Jacob (Genesis 46:10) and Boaz was a great-great-great-great-great grandson of Judah, Simeon’s brother; but the significance of using these names for the bronze pillars is not known.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 23-26: Hiram casts a massive “molten sea,” 15 feet in diameter and over 7 feet deep, for use in the temple sacrifices. Such a feat would be impressive even with today’s technology. The text doesn’t say, but the bronze oxen holding the sea must have been life-sized.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 27-37: The ten bronze stands described here are more delicately wrought. They are for the purpose of holding the ten basins described in the next paragraph, and are used for the sacrifices in the temple.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 38-39: The bronze basins are described next, which are placed on the ten stands and arranged on each side of the temple.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 40-44: Utensils are then fashioned to handle the ashes and the cooked meat of the sacrifices. A summary is given of Hiram’s products.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 45-47: These smaller utensils are cast in clay forms in the Jordan River valley and brought to Jerusalem.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 48-50: Now we are told that Solomon makes the vessels inside the temple’s sanctuary: altar, table, lamp stands, flowers, lamps, tongs, cups, snuffers, basins, dishes, fire pans, and sockets for the doors, all of pure beaten gold. Whether the historian means that Solomon personally did this work or had it done by other artisans like Hiram is not made clear, but the latter is the most likely explanation.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 51: Solomon completes the preparation of the temple by bringing in all the things David had collected for it.
Day 299: 1 Kings 8
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1-13: A procession is arranged to transfer the Ark of the Covenant into the newly constructed temple. The timing of this account is curious. Solomon took 7 years to build the temple and 13 years to build his palace and administrative buildings. It would seem that the palace was not begun until the temple was completed, but here it appears that the temple is the last thing Solomon constructs. The ark has been kept in a tent to this point. Now it is brought to its new place under the giant cherubim. There is nothing in the ark but the 10 Commandments. During the procession countless sheep and oxen are slaughtered, making it a memorable occasion for all who were there. When the priests deposit the ark, the temple is filled with a cloud; in this case it may be due to the excessive burning of incense in the enclosed space of the inner sanctuary. Solomon does everything in excess, doesn’t he? Solomon declares that he has built a house for God to dwell in forever. Do you get the impression that he thinks he is capturing God?
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 14-21: For the dedication, Solomon first speaks to the people, recounting the events that led to his building of the temple.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 22-26: Then he addresses the LORD in prayer, reminding God that he had promised that David’s dynasty would last forever and asks him to confirm the promise.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 27-30: Solomon asks that God hear the prayers that are prayed toward the temple.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 31-32: The remainder of Solomon’s prayer addresses a number of specific issues that might be brought before the LORD in prayer. This first one has to do with disputes between neighbors when one wrongs the other.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 33-34: This part of the prayer seems to anticipate the Babylonian exile that is still hundreds of years in the future, but could just as well refer to prisoners of war being returned home after any battle.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 35-36: Drought is a constant worry in a climate that does not produce a great deal of rain even in normal years. The interesting thing is that Solomon assumes that if there is a drought it must be the result of some sin of the people.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 37-40: Other perils are enumerated. Again, the main emphasis is on confession and forgiveness. I wonder how often we, in praying for our own troubles, stop to consider that perhaps we should confess our sins and ask to be forgiven before our troubles are taken away.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 41-43: Solomon even asks that the prayers of foreigners be heard if they pray toward the temple to the LORD. The purpose of God answering such prayers is so that God (and Solomon’s temple) will become famous beyond the borders of Israel.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 44-45: A prayer that God hear the prayers of the armies as they prepare for battle.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 46-53: This part of the prayer certainly seems to apply to the Babylonian exile.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 54-61: Solomon concludes his prayers with a blessing of the people.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 62-66: 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep are slaughtered and offered as sacrifices for the dedication of the temple. All the people partake in the festival and go home happy.
Day 300: 1 Kings 9
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1-5: God appears to Solomon as at Gibeon. At Gibeon it had been in a dream (3:15), so we can assume that is the case here as well. In the dream God promises Solomon that if he will practice the integrity and uprightness of his father David (we know how upright David was!) then his dynasty will survive forever. Of course, it doesn’t last forever, so we must assume …
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 6-9: However, if Solomon or his successors fail to live with integrity and uprightness the people will lose the land, the temple will be a heap of ruins, and everyone will know it happened because they turned away from God.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 10-14: Solomon “gives” King Hiram of Tyre 20 cities in Galilee, but Hiram is not impressed with them when he sees them. He has already sent Solomon 120 talents of gold, though. He should have examined the purchase before he paid the price. The story tells us more about Solomon than about Hiram.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 15-22: Solomon undertakes an impressive building program in his kingdom. (Verse 16 tells us that Israel and Egypt are allies at this point in history.) He uses a huge number of laborers forced to work in the forests and quarries and on his building sites. These are conscripted from among the non-Israelite people living in the land. Israelites do not serve as forced labor, but are recruited (or drafted) to serve in the army.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 23: An indication of the massiveness of Solomon’s construction projects is that 550 project managers are needed.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 24: Pharaoh’s daughter moves into her quarters. She seems to have had a prominent position in Solomon’s court. The mention of the Millo is obscure; no one knows what this structure is for. It was first mentioned when David conquered the city from the Jebusites (2 Samuel 5:9). King Joash is said to have been killed in the Millo (2 Kings 12:20), and King Hezekiah is said to have rebuilt it (2 Chronicles 32:5).
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 25: It’s nice to know that Solomon went to “church” three times a year.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 26-28: Ezion-geber is a port on the Gulf of Aqaba, the arm of the sea that stretches north from the main body of the Red Sea. Ophir has never been identified, but most scholars believe it was on the coast of Pakistan or India. Once again we see cooperation between Solomon and Hiram of Tyre (Lebanon).
Day 301: 1 Kings 10
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1-5: Sheba has never been satisfactorily identified, either, though most scholars place it on the Red Sea around what is today Yemen. The Queen of Sheba is one of history’s mysteries. Nothing is known of her outside the Bible, the Quran and one other Near Middle Eastern source. We don’t know if she is a queen regnant (ruler in her own right) or a queen consort (wife of a king). She has lots of wealth, whichever she is, and the text seems to want to present her as being somewhat haughty, but Solomon’s magnificence humbles her.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 6-10: She is wowed by all she sees, and pronounces Solomon to be a real wowser. More importantly she now has respect for Israel’s God. She gives Solomon 120 talents of gold and some other stuff. Solomon did not give her 20 cities, however.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 11-12: The insertion of this verse prompts some scholars to speculate that Sheba may be identified with Ophir; but we don’t know for sure where that was, either.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 13: A tantalizing verse, leading us to speculate about the extent of her desires. In any case it appears that she returns home with more stuff than she had when she came.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 14-22: Solomon’s wealth is enormous by any standards. His kingdom is largely at peace during his reign (though we’ll hear more details shortly), so the golden shields mentioned here are decorative. I don’t know why anyone would go to the trouble of making an ivory throne and then overlay it with gold, but then Solomon has gold in excess. The ships of Tarshish are another mystery. The best guess is that Tarshish was on the Atlantic coast of Spain. In route the ships could stop at ports on the North African coast as well as Italy and southern France, bringing a wide variety of goods to Solomon.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 23-25: For all his pomp, Solomon is regarded for his scholarship as much as for his wealth.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 26-29: At the prevailing rate mentioned in this paragraph, Solomon’s 1400 chariots would have cost 840,000 shekels of silver. 12,000 horses would have cost 1,800,000. For someone who never fought a war, he has an impressive military organization. Kue is not known, and some believe it is the name of a person rather than a place.
Day 302: 1 Kings 11
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1-8: 700 wives and 300 concubines! What is he thinking? Marrying a princess is a common political expedient to shore up intertribal and international relationships, but 700 of them? In hindsight the historians of Israel see this as the spiritual downfall of Solomon. The opinion given here is that these princesses lured him into being a benefactor for their religious persuasions, and that is why Solomon allowed the worship of other gods to become an influential element in Israelite politics and culture. It is just as possible, of course, that Solomon kept the peace with his neighbors by inviting their daughters into his harem (which would have been considered an honor), and builds the other places of worship so that they will feel comfortable in his territory. Some of these women are of the races that Solomon is using as forced labor (9:20), and he probably thinks it is wise to placate those parts of his constituency. Later judgments of his actions are not so kind.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 9-13: The judgment of later historians is that Solomon’s dabbling in other cults results in God allowing the kingdom to be divided, but since the division doesn’t happen until after Solomon’s death they reason that God must have protected Solomon because he is David’s son.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 14-22: Solomon has his enemies, of course. One of them is Hadad, an Edomite prince who had escaped to Egypt when Joab had razed his country. He marries Pharaoh’s wife’s sister and has a child with her, named Genubath. When David dies he apparently returns to Edom, but we are not told exactly how he opposes Solomon.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 23-25: Another enemy is Rezon of Zobah, who becomes king of Damascus and opposes Solomon in ways that, again, are not specified.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 26-40: Much more serious opposition comes from within. We meet Jeroboam, an Ephraimite and federal employee whom Solomon set over the forced labor of the two half tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim (the sons of Joseph). We recall that Solomon had divided the land into twelve regions and levied heavy requirements of production on them, but had exempted his own tribe of Judah (4:7-19). And we meet Ahijah, a prophet from Shiloh. The prophetic party has not been mentioned, but we know that they are a powerful lobby in the country, and we know that they in particular hate Solomon’s policy of tolerance toward foreigners and foreign religions. Ahijah meets Jeroboam out in the country and tells him that God has decided to make him king of the ten northern tribes upon the death of Solomon. Somehow Solomon finds out about this treachery and seeks to have Jeroboam put to death, but he escapes to Egypt. It is interesting that King Shishak of Egypt, Solomon’s ally, nevertheless aids and abets would-be enemies. Perhaps he has his own eye on Israel and is waiting for Solomon’s reign to end so he can make his move.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 41-43: Solomon dies with little fanfare after reigning for 40 years. His son Rehoboam assumes the throne, but we see trouble ahead.
Day 303: 1 Kings 12
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1-5: Rehoboam goes to Shechem to be crowned by the northern tribes, and there, of all people, we find Jeroboam. Jeroboam, a leader of the tribe of Ephraim, has been cooling his heels in Egypt all this time, but obviously has maintained contact with the folk back home waiting for this opportunity to return. He is the one who challenges Rehoboam to relax the policies of his father Solomon. Solomon had of course levied heavy taxes and labor requirements on the northern tribes, but not on Judah (4:7-19). Rehoboam asks for 3 days to consider the request.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 6-11: Rehoboam hears the advice of his father Solomon’s advisors, that he should accede to the request of the northern tribes. However, his own cadre of young ambitious courtiers thinks he should drop the hammer on them.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 12-15: So, Rehoboam summons Jeroboam and the representatives from the northern tribes and lays down the law.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 16-19: The northern tribes understandably see this as evidence that they will never be accorded an equal status with the tribe of Judah as long as they are ruled by a descendant of David, and they refuse to accept Rehoboam as their king. Rehoboam is unbelievably dense; he actually sends somebody to order them to get back to work, and they stone the poor fellow to death.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 20: Jeroboam is quickly acclaimed king of Israel. Judah and Benjamin are left as the only tribes under Rehoboam’s rule. Benjamin is the tribal home of King Saul and his descendants (1 Samuel 9:1).
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 21-24: Rehoboam musters an army to try to subdue Israel by force, but is advised by Shemaiah that the division of the kingdom is God’s doing. Rehoboam sends his troops home.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 25-33: Jeroboam builds up Shechem as his capital. He reasons that his hold on the northern tribes will be weakened if the people continue to go to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices, so he goes about setting up his own cult in Israel. He builds temples in Bethel and Dan, at both ends of his territory, and makes two golden calves like the ones Aaron had made in the wilderness. He evens makes the same claim for them: “These are the gods who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” Remember that Jeroboam had spent a number of years in exile in Egypt as a guest of Pharaoh Shishak, and had married the pharaoh’s sister-in-law. His son Genubath has been raised as an Egyptian. His new religion probably follows closely what he learned there. He goes so far as to appoint his own priesthood, ignoring the primacy of the tribe of Levy for those duties. He also institutes rival religious festivals so his people won’t be enticed to go back to Jerusalem. Sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it?
Day 304: 1 Kings 13
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1-10: Now here is a strange story indeed. A “man of God” from Judah shows up at the altar in Bethel as Jeroboam is offering incense. He pronounces a curse against the altar, saying that a later king, Josiah, will slaughter the pagan priests on it. The “sign” that this is so is that the altar will be torn down and its ashes scattered. Jeroboam orders his arrest, but in the process his hand is “withered,” and he loses the use of it. Perhaps he suffered a stroke? The altar is torn down, though by what agency we are not told. Jeroboam asks the man of God to pray for his healing, and he recovers the use of his hand and arm (as stroke victims often do). Jeroboam invites the man of God to his home, but the man refuses to come and heads back to Judah.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 11-19: An Israelite holy man tracks him down and invites him to his house. The man of God refuses at first, but the Israelite holy man claims that his invitation is at God’s behest, so the man of God accepts his hospitality. The obvious point of the story is the religious conflict that is going on alongside the political conflict. The northerners are depicted as being a bit deceitful, aren’t they?
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 20-25: The Israelite prophet reveals his deceit. The man of God is given a donkey to return to Judah, and he is attacked by a lion and killed. People see the body beside the road, the lion and donkey still standing by, and report it to the prophet.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 26-32: The prophet from Israel recovers the body of the man of God from Judah and gives him a decent burial, instructing his sons to bury him in the same grave when his time should come. He acknowledges that the prophecy of the man of God will come to pass regarding the worship places Jeroboam has constructed in Israel.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 33-34: Jeroboam is not swayed by the story and continues to turn the priesthood of Israel into political favors. God doesn’t like it. There will not be a happy outcome.
Day 305: 1 Kings 14
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1-3: In Israel, there is a crisis in the king’s household. Jeroboam’s son Abijah falls ill. Jeroboam sends his wife to Ahijah, the Shilonite priest who had encouraged him to rebel against Solomon, to inquire about what will happen to his son. She disguises herself, though no explanation is given for this. The explanation is probably that Jeroboam knows that Ahijah is no longer a fan of his because he established a rival cult.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 4-5: She heads to Shiloh. Ahijah, meanwhile, has been prepared by the LORD to tell her a lot more than she has come to learn.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 6-14: Ahijah recognizes her as soon as she walks in, though he is blind. He tells her that God is going to tear the kingdom away from her husband because 1) he has not been like David, 2) he has not done what was right, 3) he has done more evil than any before him (which is puzzling since he is the first king of Israel), 4) he has made other gods for himself, and cast images, and 5) he has cast God behind his back. Verse 13 seems to mean that the child Abijah is the only male member of Jeroboam’s family who will be given an honorable burial.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 15-16: Ahijah goes on to say that Jeroboam’s sins will eventually result in the destruction of Israel. That prophecy will come to pass in a couple of hundred years. The judgment of Ahijah is that Jeroboam has put them on that inevitable path because he created his own cult rather than allowing the northern tribes to continue to go to Jerusalem to worship God.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 17-18: Jeroboam’s wife returns to Tirzah, the child dies and is buried and mourned by the whole country.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 19-20: Jeroboam in his turn also dies after ruling for 22 years. Nothing is said of his burial or of the people mourning him.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 21-24: Meanwhile, down south in Jerusalem, Rehoboam has been ruling Judah. He has allowed the people to forsake the worship of God and to take part in the Canaanite fertility cults, complete with male prostitutes, which is considered to be especially abominable.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 25-28: Shishak, Pharaoh of Egypt, has been eying Jerusalem since the time of Solomon. He had rendered some assistance to two of Solomon’s enemies: He had helped Hadad reclaim the kingdom of Edom (see 11:17-21); and he had provided Jeroboam a safe haven while Solomon was still ruling (see 11:40). Now that Rehoboam’s inept leadership has allowed the country to decline, Shishak seizes the opportunity to sack the capital city of Judah, Jerusalem. He carries off everything of value, but it appears to have been a raid and not an invasion, for no indication is given that the Egyptians occupy the country. When they leave, Rehoboam replaces some of the gold they had stolen with similar objects made of bronze.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 29-31: Rehoboam dies after 17 years of rule at the age of 58. We learn now that there had been continuous war between him and Jeroboam of Israel. His son Abijam (not to be confused with his son Abijah who died) becomes king.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Rehoboam’s mother Naamah is mentioned twice — in verses 21 and 31. Part of the reason may be because she was a foreigner (an Ammonite), and the historians wanted everyone to know that Rehoboam’s failure as a king might be traced to that part of his parentage. Solomon simply had too many wives, didn’t he? It is also the case that from now on the Queen Mother will seem to have particular responsibilities and perhaps authority in the administrations that follow.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 2 Chronicles 12 and following give more details about some of the kings and their reigns.
Day 306: 1 Kings 15
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1-8: Abijam rules for 3 years. The Queen Mother is again mentioned, but her nationality is not given, which leads me to think that by that time the Queen Mother was an acknowledged position in the kingdom. Perhaps Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, started that trend when she successfully promoted her son above his brothers to succeed David. Like his father, Abijam is at war with Jeroboam, but his rule is brief. He dies, and is succeeded by his son, Asa.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 9-15: Asa reigns for 41 years, longer than either David or Solomon. He is judged to have been a good king. He banishes the male temple prostitutes and idols. He replaces some of the wealth of the temple that his grandfather had lost to Shishak. The Queen Mother is once again Maacah, daughter of Abishalom (although in 2 Chronicles another name is given). The most likely explanation is that she is now the Queen Grandmother; Asa’s mother has probably died. In any case she is removed from her official position as Queen Mother by Asa because she is a pagan.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 16-24: The sequence of events is hard to follow because the reigns of the various kings of Judah and Israel overlap. Asa becomes king of Judah in the last year of the reign of Jeroboam of Israel, but the narrative at this point ignores not only the last year of Jeroboam’s reign but also the entire reign of his son Nadab (who ruled for only 2 years — see verses 25-26). During Asa’s rule king Baasha of Israel (Jeroboam’s grandson) invades Judah and begins to build a fortress at Ramah. The location of Ramah is debated, but was apparently in Judah’s territory in a strategic location that would control traffic in and out of Jerusalem. Asa proves to be up to the challenge; although his own forces are apparently not strong enough to resist Baasha, he sends tribute to Ben-hadad of Damascus and persuades him to invade Israel from the north. Ben-hadad is successful in taking a fairly large territory in the northern part of Israel in the region of Lake Chinneroth. The invasion also succeeds in drawing Baasha away from his gains in Judah. He returns to Tirzah, and Asa has the fortress dismantled and the stones and timbers are then used to build his own fortress cities. Asa dies with diseased feet, an indication of poor circulation due to diabetes or atherosclerosis, and is succeeded by his son Jehoshaphat.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 25-28: Meanwhile, we catch up on what has been happening in Israel. Jeroboam’s son Nadab succeeds him, but his reign is brief. Carrying on the warlike ways of his predecessors he lays siege to a Philistine city. Baasha assassinates him and takes over as king of Israel. He is the one we just read about in the previous paragraph.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 29-30: Baasha secures his rule by putting to death every member of Jeroboam’s family as old blind Ahijah had prophesied.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 31: We back up a minute to bury Nadab.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 32: We look ahead to see what’s in store for Baasha.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 33-34: Baasha rules for 24 years, and is roundly condemned for carrying on the religious practices of Jeroboam.
Day 307: 1 Kings 16
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1-7: We are introduced to another prophet, one Jehu, to whom God’s word comes with regard to Baasha. Baasha is roundly condemned both for murdering Jeroboam’s family and for being too much like Jeroboam! Baasha dies and is succeeded by his son Elah.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 8-10: Elah doesn’t last long, and drinks too much. He is assassinated by one of his cavalry commanders, Zimri.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 11-14: Zimri wastes no time in getting rid of any possible threat to his power. He murders everybody he can find who has any connection to Baasha, Elah’s father.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 15-20: Meanwhile, Israel’s army is still besieging the Philistine city of Gibbethon. The army is apparently secure enough in its organization and leadership that repeated changes in the palace doesn’t have much effect on their ability to wage war. When news comes of Zimri’s coup the army proclaims their general, Omri, to be king. Omri leads the army back to Tirzah and lays siege to his own capital. Zimri immolates himself in the palace. The author is convinced that Zimri got what he deserved. He ruled a whole week.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 21-24: Now we see how chaotic things have become in the northern kingdom. Another guy, Tibni, is crowned by half the population, but Omri’s crowd is quick to do away with the threat. Tibni dies, and you can be sure it wasn’t peacefully in his sleep. Omri’s rule is secure, and he rules for 12 years. Halfway through his reign he moves the capital from Tirzah to Samaria, where it will remain for the duration of Israel. An explanation is given of the name “Samaria,” that it is based on the name of the man who sold the hill to Omri — Shemer — but Samaria is already the name of the region in which it is located — see 13:32.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 25-28: Omri is judged to be a wicked king. When he dies he is succeeded by his son Ahab, who will prove to be the most notable ruler of the northern kingdom, Israel.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 29-33: Asa is still on the throne in Judah when Ahab begins his reign. Ahab will rule for 22 years. He is a very bad man by all accounts, and the worst thing he does is to marry Jezebel, princess of Sidon, worshiper of Baal. Ahab builds a temple to Baal right there in the capital city, and even erects a totem pole honoring that pagan deity — of all the nerve!
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 34: Unrelated to anything else in the chapter, we are told that a fellow named Hiel rebuilt Jericho, and in the process lost his oldest and youngest sons, thus proving the curse of Joshua hundreds of years before (Joshua 6:26).
Day 308: 1 Kings 17
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1-7: We meet Elijah, one of the Old Testament’s most memorable characters. Up to now prophets in Israel and Judah have channeled the “word of God” to others. In Elijah we meet a man who can do things. He is from Gilead, the mountain country east of the Jordan just south of the Sea of Galilee. He appears in Samaria as an advisor to King Ahab, and tells Ahab there will be a drought and no rain will fall until he, Elijah, says so. This is a bold claim for anyone, and we have seen nothing like it in the Bible thus far. After making this bold pronouncement, God tells Elijah to go and camp by the Wadi Cherith in his homeland of Gilead. He does, and ravens bring him meat and bread twice a day (reminiscent of Jesus — see Matthew 4:11). Before long, though, the wadi dries up due to the drought for which he himself is responsible.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 8-16: God then tells Elijah to go to Sidon, a region on the coast of Lebanon, and there he will be provided for by a widow. As he approaches the town of Zarephath he sees a widow gathering sticks outside the gate. He has the nerve to ask her to bring him water, and then adds that he’d like a slice of bread as well, without so much as a “please, ma’am.” She tells him she only has a little meal and oil and is gathering sticks to make a fire to cook it and then they will die, her and her son. Elijah promises her that if she will bring him something to eat first, mind you, the oil and meal will not run out before the drought ends. And, by golly, that is exactly what happens. We have not seen the likes of Elijah before.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 17-24: Elijah takes up lodging with the widow. After some days her son becomes ill and stops breathing. Elijah carries him up to his room, lays him out on his bed, cries out to God, then stretches himself out on the boy three times; a form of CPR, do you think? He prays again, and the boy starts breathing again. He takes the boy back downstairs to the widow, and she says that she now knows that he is a man of God who speaks the word of God truly, as if the never-ending meal and oil hasn’t already convinced her.
Day 309: 1 Kings 18
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1-2: Three years pass, and finally God tells Elijah to show himself to King Ahab and tell him rain is a-comin’.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 3-6: Meanwhile Ahab determines to find water somewhere in his realm and enlists the prophet Obadiah in the search. He does not know that Obadiah is faithful to the LORD and has hidden 100 of his colleagues in caves. The two men split up. We might wonder why a king would think such a task should be undertaken personally and with a high-ranking leader. My guess is that Ahab doesn’t want just anybody to know where the water is.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 7-16: Obadiah is met by Elijah coming back from Zarephath. Elijah demands an audience with Ahab. Obadiah protests that Elijah is not very dependable and if he arranges the meeting and Elijah doesn’t show, his (Obadiah’s) goose is cooked because Ahab is eager to get his hands on Elijah and has been searching high and low for him. Elijah assures him that will not be the case, and Obadiah runs the errand.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 17-19: Ahab meets Elijah. They exchange insults. Elijah tells him to gather all the people of Israel and all the prophets of Baal and Asherah to meet him on Mt. Carmel.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 20-29: The assembly convenes and Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to a contest to prove whether they should worship Baal or the LORD. “How long will you go limping between two opinions,” he says. They are to each slaughter a bull and lay it on an altar and then pray to their respective deities to add the fire. “You go first,” he tells them, and they do. They pray to Baal and limp about the altar they had made. Notice the play on words: in verse 21 he is saying that if you try to worship two gods you are handicapped; in verse 26 it is clear that if you worship the wrong god you are handicapped. Elijah makes fun of their effort — he is a bit mean-spirited, wouldn’t you say? Try as they might, no fire arrives.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 30-35: Now Elijah, with a showmanship that David Copperfield would find admirable, draws the crowds in close. He builds an altar of twelve stones to remind the people that the LORD has chosen them. He digs a trench around the altar, butchers his bull and then drowns everything in water, as if there hasn’t been a drought for three years.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 36-40: “The time of the offering of the oblation” is an obscure reference that relates to the practice of making offerings at certain times of the day. It is well into the afternoon when Elijah finally prays to the LORD a simple prayer. Fire falls on the altar and consumes everything. The people are impressed. “The LORD wins!” they yell, and Elijah uses the excitement of the moment to have all the prophets of Baal seized and dragged away to a wadi somewhere below the summit to be killed. Elijah himself apparently does the dirty work, unlike some of the kings we’ve met who let “the young men” do that part.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 41-46: Elijah tells Ahab to go back up Mt. Carmel and partake of the offering that has been cooked on the altar. He goes also, along with his servant, whom we meet here for the first time. The servant goes to look out over the sea and brings a weather report back to Elijah. On the seventh trip he sees a small cloud, and Elijah springs into action. He tells the servant to tell Ahab to hurry down the mountain before the rains come, then he runs down the mountain himself and beats Ahab to Jezreel down in the valley below Carmel. He is able to outrun Ahab’s chariot because “the hand of the LORD” is on him. Ever since that day athletes have been giving credit to God for their successes, but I doubt their claims are as well-founded as Elijah’s.
Day 310: 1 Kings 19
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1-3: Jezebel is not happy with Elijah because he killed all her prophets. He skedaddles to Beer-sheba in Judah, well south of Jerusalem on the edge of the wilderness; it is one of the places Abraham lived.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 4-8: Elijah is traveling back through his peoples’ history. He goes a day’s journey into the wilderness below Beer-sheba and lies down to die. He is no better than his ancestors, he says, as he lies there on the ground they once walked. An angel twice rouses him and gives him bread and water. Elijah finally rouses and travels 40 days (his ancestors took 40 years; Jesus will take 40 days) to Mt. Horeb, also known as Mt. Sinai; it is the place where God gave Moses the Law.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 9-10: He spends the night in a cave, and hears God ask what he’s doing there. He replies that he has been zealous for the LORD but the Israelites have rebelled and even killed all the prophets. (Maybe sort of in the same way Elijah killed the prophets of Baal? It’s a wonder anybody is left.)
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 11-18: God summons him to the mouth of the cave, but Elijah is confronted with a spectacular display — wind and earthquake and fire — and then a “still, small voice,” or a “sound of sheer silence.” Things got very quiet. He then goes to the cave entrance, and hears God once again asking why he is there. He replies with exactly the same words as before, as if he has been rehearsing for this meeting with God. God tells him to head back to the north, beyond Israel to Damascus. There he is to anoint Hazael king of Aram. This is surprising because Aram (precursor kingdom to Syria) has been and will continue to be an enemy of Israel (see 11:23-25 for example). He is also to anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel, which makes Elijah a direct threat to Ahab. And he is to anoint Elisha as his own successor. A great slaughter will ensue, God says, but 7000 of the faithful will be spared.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 19-21: Elijah carries out the last order first. He finds Elisha and throws his cloak over him. No actual anointing takes place, which is annoying to fundamentalists but doesn’t really bother most people. Elisha takes this as an invitation to be Elijah’s disciple, and asks for time to say farewell to his parents, which Elijah grants. Many centuries later, Jesus will turn down a fellow who wants to say goodbye to his family first (Luke 9:61-62). In any event, Elisha slaughters his oxen (12 of them, of course), cooks the meat and gives it to the people, then catches up with Elijah. All this must have taken a day or so, and by golly, it never says he actually kissed his Mom and Dad goodbye. I hope they got to see him.
Day 311: 1 Kings 20
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1-6: A crisis in Samaria! King Ben-hadad of Aram marches his army to the city and demands that Ahab turn over all his silver and gold and wives and children. Surprisingly, Ahab agrees. Then Ben-hadad sends a message saying that he will send servants to search the city and take whatever appeals to them. (If Elijah had anointed Hazael first, like he was supposed to do, this might never have happened!)
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 7-12: Ahab blanches at the second demand. He gathers his advisors and tells them he is quite ready to hand over his wives and children and gold and silver, but he will not allow them to search his palace. I mean, a man has to draw the line somewhere, hasn’t he? His advisors advise him to just say “no.” He does, and Ben-hadad is insulted, and threatens Ahab in return. Ahab tells him not to count his chickens before they hatch, and Ben-hadad immediately arrays his troops around the city.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 13-15: A “certain prophet,” unnamed, tells Ahab God will help him win the battle. He is to put the “young men” who serve the district governors at the head of his troops and engage in a pre-emptive attack against the enemy. This is good advice; we have seen what the “young men” can do.
16-18: Ahab does so, and catches Ben-hadad drunk and unprepared.
19-21: The “young men” lead the charge and rout the Arameans. Once the enemy is on the run, Ahab takes charge of his forces and pursues them. Ben-hadad escapes.
22: The unnamed prophet appears again to warn Ahab that Ben-hadad will try it again next spring.
23-25: Ben-hadad’s advisors have their own ideas. They speculate that Israel fights better in the hills than on the plains. They attribute that idea to the thought that Israel’s gods (note the plural) are gods of the hills, but the Arameans use chariots, which are better suited to warfare on level ground. They also recommend that he leave the politicians behind and let trained military commanders lead the army instead. And we thought that was a contemporary problem.
26-30: Aphek is a border town that was initially part of the territory of the tribe of Asher (Joshua 19:30). It has been the scene of other battles, with the Philistines in particular (I Samuel 29:1), and will be again (II Kings 13:17). Ben-hadad amasses his troops there, and the Israelites counter with their own army, which our historian is certain was much, much smaller than the Aramean army. An unnamed “man of God” tells Ahab that, since the Arameans think Israel’s God can’t fight in the valley, Israel’s God is going to show them something. They face off for a week without any action, and then the battle begins. Israel kills 100,000 of them, and another 27,000 die when a wall falls on them in Aphek, but body counts in the field are notoriously unreliable.
31-34: Ben-hadad takes refuge in Aphek, too, but it is clear that the battle is lost. His advisors suggest surrender, and he agrees. They throw themselves on Ahab’s mercy, and Ahab indicates a willingness to negotiate. Ben-hadad offers to give back territory taken from Israel by his father (whose name was also Ben-hadad — see 15:20), and Ahab agrees.
35-43: We are treated to a scenario in which another unnamed prophet works out what the will of God’s must be. He tells one colleague to hit him, but the man refuses. Since he refuses to carry out God’s word (after all, God told the man to tell the other man to hit him) he must die by lion. That is in keeping with the precedent set earlier (13:20-24) that a prophet who disobeys God’s word must die by lion. I can’t imagine why. But, the unnamed prophet continues his research by asking another fellow to whack him, which the other fellow promptly does. The unnamed prophet is then convinced that all of this surely means Ahab must die, and goes and tells him so. This puts Ahab in a foul mood. It is not a good thing for a king to be in a foul mood.
Day 312: 1 Kings 21
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1-4: King Ahab offers to purchase an adjacent tract of land from one Naboth, but Naboth refuses, saying it has been in his family for generations and he won’t give it up. Ahab is once again resentful and sullen and goes to bed pouting. Does this sound like a king to you?
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 5-7: Jezebel asks the reason for his pique and offers to take care of things for him. She is a take charge kind of queen.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 8-14: She takes care of things for him with a brutal efficiency. There are some ethical issues, of course, but that doesn’t bother Jezebel or the “nobles” who do her dirty work for her.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 15-16: They send word to Jezebel that the deed is done, she informs Ahab, and he gets out of bed and goes to claim his vineyard.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 17-19: Elijah receives the news and hears God telling him to confront Ahab with his crime and tell him it will cost him his own life.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 20-24: Elijah delivers the message with a flare. Indeed, most of what he says to Ahab — that he, all his family, all his followers, and his wife Jezebel will all suffer an ignoble death – was not mentioned in his conversation with God in the previous paragraph. But you can be sure that, when it comes to the word of God, Elijah isn’t taking liberties.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 25-26: Our historian pauses to remind us what a sorry, good-for-nothing king Ahab has been.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 27-29: Ahab, however, is a complicated man. He hates Elijah but has tremendous respect for him and takes his word seriously. He repents and God amends the judgment, telling Elijah that Ahab will not be the end of the Omri dynasty of kings in Israel, but rather that disaster will be delayed until one of Ahab’s sons take the throne.
Day 313: 1 Kings 22
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1-4: Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, visits Ahab, king of Israel. Good to see the two are getting along these days. Israel’s running battle with Aram has also been dormant for the last three years, but Ahab laments to his courtiers that Ramoth-Gilead, an Israelite town, has been left in the hands of Aram. He asks Jehoshaphat if he will be an ally in a war against Aram. Jehoshaphat says he will.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 5-12: But perhaps Jehoshaphat has second thoughts, and insists that they seek guidance from the LORD. Ahab gathers his royal prophets and they make a big show of support, which I suspect is what they are paid to do. Note that they are just “prophets.” Jehoshaphat wants to hear from a “prophet of the LORD.” Ahab says that there is one, Micaiah son of Imlah, but he never has anything good to say concerning the king of Israel. I wonder why. Upon hearing that, Jehoshaphat insists on calling him, which gives you the impression that Jehoshaphat might be looking for a way out of his commitment. While they’re waiting for Micaiah, one of Ahab’s prophets, Zedekiah, puts on a show. What a way to run a kingdom.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 13-14: The messenger warns Micaiah to go along with the program, but Micaiah insists on his prophetic integrity.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 15-18: Micaiah comes in and is asked if they should go to battle, and to our surprise he seems to give an enthusiastic endorsement of the plan. But Ahab knows better and insists that Micaiah tell them what he really thinks God’s counsel to be. Now Micaiah paints a bleak picture of defeated, scattered and leaderless troops. Ahab says to Jehoshaphat, “See!”
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 19-23: Micaiah isn’t quite finished, though. He tells how the LORD has gone about seeing to it that Ahab gets bad advice so that he will be killed in battle. God, he says, has used Ahab’s prophets to entice him into the trap.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 24-28: Zedekiah, the guy who charged around with iron horns a little while ago, slaps Micaiah and claims that he is the one who has the spirit of the LORD. Micaiah calmly replies that the day will come soon when Zedekiah will find it necessary to hide. Ahab steps between them then and orders that Micaiah be put under house arrest. Keep him there, he says, until I come in peace; to which Micaiah replies that if that actually happens he has not spoken the word of the LORD.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 29-36: For some reason Jehoshaphat, after all that has happened, decides to go into battle with Ahab. Not only that, but Ahab tells him that he is going to wear common clothes, but Jehoshaphat is to wear his royal garb, and Jehoshaphat agrees! The only plausible explanation is that Jehoshaphat is subordinate to Ahab in a way that has not been explained to us. Meanwhile, the king of Aram tells his soldiers to gun for the enemy king. Naturally, they mistake Jehoshaphat for the king of Israel and make for him. Jehoshaphat cries out and they leave off the pursuit. The text doesn’t say what Jehoshaphat cries, but it may have been something like, “No, no, I’m not Ahab! Ahab is over there; third row, fifth man from the left!” In any case, another soldier shoots an arrow willy-nilly, and it mortally wounds Ahab. Like Stonewall Jackson, he is cut down by a random projectile. Ahab is still alive, though, and tells his chariot driver to take him out of the battle. He watches until evening, and dies right there in his chariot. Word spreads through his army and they abandon the battle. “Let’s go home!” they cry.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 37-40: They bring Ahab’s body back to Samaria where he is given a royal funeral. The dogs in the streets lap up the blood-stained water used to wash out his chariot. Ahab is eulogized and remembered for his building projects, and his son Ahaziah is crowned king, fulfilling the word of Elijah in the last chapter.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 41-44: Jehoshaphat’s reign is summarized now. He is judged to have been a good king like his father Asa. He rules for 25 years, and it is noted that he makes peace with Ahab, king of Israel. After the way Ahab treats him, though, we wonder at what cost that peace was attained for Judah.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 45-46: His reign is also marked by the elimination of the male temple prostitutes left in the land when he is crowned.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 47-50: Jehoshaphat eventually holds sway over Edom, placing a deputy in charge there. He attempts to expand trade to the south through the Red Sea passage to Ophir, and builds a fleet of long-range ships like the kind Solomon used to send to Tarshish on the coast of Spain (see 10:22), but the fleet is destroyed in port, probably by a storm. Some attempt is made by Ahaziah, now the king of Israel, to turn the navy into a joint venture, but by this time Jehoshaphat is secure enough not to be drawn into a disadvantageous arrangement with Israel, and refuses the suggestion.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 51-53: In Israel, meanwhile, Ahaziah rules only 2 years. The commentary on his rule is not complimentary.