I Kings

The Long Slippery Slope Downhill

Today's text: I Kings.

Narrative: Arnold Toynbee's 1948 work on the Rise and Fall of Civilizations as reviewed in one of our lessons on Nahum is not a Biblical work, but many historians respect it. Where Israel was concerned, it was right on. There are four distinct stages of the rise and fall of most civilizations, and Israel went through those just like 26 others did.

Israel reached it spiritual peak just before the incident of II Samuel 11 of David with Bathsheba. In the quiet of that afternoon, supposedly in secret, the leader of a nation, to be followed later by the rest of the nation, lost his self-discipline to say no to a lust of the flesh. After David lost his self-discipline, the nation followed. As was prophesied, what he did in secret would be done on the rooftops within a generation. The David-Bathsheba story is most instructive, not only to nations but also to families and individuals as well.

As I Kings begins, David is in his last days. A maiden is brought in to him, but he experiences impotence and those around him, including Bathsheba, begin to make plans for the time after David is gone. There is intrigue about the succession to the throne, but God sees to it that Solomon, the son of David, is David's successor.

Like many men might have been upon being called to the throne of a nation, Solomon is intimidated at first at the size of the task. His early reaction is a favorable one: He asks God for wisdom. God compliments him for asking for wisdom and gives him not only the wisdom but some of the most extensive riches that any human has ever know. Through chapter 10, the prosperity of the nation with all of its riches, pomp, and glory, are told. But the seeds of distruction have already been planted. In chapter 11, we see Solomon's weakness that harks back to his father's: women. With Solomon, it may not have been in reaching for someone else's wife, but it was in his foreign wives.

He had quite a few. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Although the Biblical principle of "one man, one woman, together for life" had not ceased--and would be re-iterated by Christ in Matthew 19 and Mark 10 of the New Testament--God allowed these excesses of number for the ruler of Israel. God covenanted with Solomon that if he would walk uprightly, the nation would do well and Solomon could continue to be its leader.

Solomon's foreign wives led him away from his devotion to God and into idolatry (I Kings 11: 6-8). At the time of his death, several people are vying for his throne. And the sword had already been unsheathed in David's time, not to depart from his house.

Jeroboam is called to lead ten tribes. Rehoboam the son of Solomon will be allowed to lead one tribe, Judah, for the sake of Solomon and David before him. Jeroboam and Rehoboam will be at war with each other, and the divided kingdoms standing behind them, for the rest of their lives.

After the death of Solomon the story grows increasingly sickening. The succession of kings that follow become less and less spiritual and hence less and less competent. It was God who knit the nation together anyway, and with kings paying less and less attention to Him, it was just a matter of time before the nations fell of their own excesses. Toynbee was right; civilizations and usually nations fall from within, not from pressure from without.

Elijah the prophet is a star figure of the ending chapters of I Kings: his showdown of I Kings 18 is particularly compelling. It is a shining example of faith in God and willingness to stand up for him when one thinks that no one else is going to is particularly inspiring.

We hope that by visiting this website, you have been blessed.

Sid Womack, webmaster

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