Note: these are completely unedited notes, and I give you no guarantee that they are fit for student consumption.  I
post them on the chance that some students might find them useful in reviewing the material we discussed in class.

 I Kings—Discussion I


Like I and II Samuel, I and II Kings might be viewed as a series of tragedies, the tragedies of Solomon, Ahab, etc., or perhaps as the tragedies of Israel and Judah.

The books are dominated by the same great themes to I and II Samuel, interaction and potential conflict between personal life and political responsibility and between religion and politics. Another important theme: how do you deal with the mess left over by a preceding generation—a theme, perhaps, particularly relevant to your generation.

We see these conflicts particularly well illustrated in the life of Solomon.

*What’s the condition of Israel when Solomon takes over? What’s good?  What’s not? What problems has David left him?

--Potential enemies (Hadad the Edomite who flees to Egypt after Joab slays all men of Edom, Rezon who flees from David and becomes king of Damascus, and Jeroboam who takes refuge in Egypt)

--Palace problems

*How does Solomon become king of Israel?  How does he secure his place on the throne? Why does Solomon first spare Adonijah and then later kill him?

(Note factions: Nathan, Zadok, mighty men of David vs. Joab, Abiathar)

--David’s unfinished business

* What do you make of David's instructions to Solomon in chapter 2?  Why does David have Solomon do these things?

Nevertheless, Solomon succeeds in overcoming most of the obstacles. He’s a pretty impressive king, obviously of sufficient stature to be a tragic hero:

* Chapters 3 and 4 describe Solomon at his best.  What does the author find admirable in Solomon?  Is there a hint of future trouble?

* What is the main purpose of building the temple?  Does the building serve any political purpose?  Are there any drawbacks to building this temple?

* Why does Solomon build such a lavish palace for himself?  What are the advantages/disadvantages of such a work?

* Note the ceremony around the dedication of the temple and the exchange between Solomon and God in chapter 9.  How is the this similar to earlier Hebrew covenants?  How different?

* What do you think of Solomon as a diplomat?  How does he maintain good relationships with Hiram of Tyre and his other neighbors?

Pretty impressive. But Solomon has a tragic flaw.

*What is Solomon's major weakness?  Why is he unable to set Israel on a course of lasting peace and prosperity?

There’s a curious difference among sins of Solomon, David, and Saul.

*How are latter two brought face to face with their sin (Saul: Samuel, David: Nathan, Solomon: God directly!)

*What’s different in the reaction of Saul, David, and Solomon?

After Solomon, tragedy begins to change in nature—change similar to that of Greek tragedy. In Aeschylus and Sophocles, there is always a clear protagonist. By the time we get to Euripides, it’s sometimes less clear who protagonist is.

In Some ways, what we get is tragedies of Israel and Judah. Sometimes still individual tragedies (Ahab), but seems now that our protagonists are different: the prophets and men of God as they confront an increasingly corrupt political system.

First, set the stage:

*Why does Rehoboam lose the kingdom of Israel?  How does Jeroboam manage to usurp his place?  Why does Jeroboam set up the golden calves?  Is his reasoning valid?

*What averts war between Israel and Judah at the outset? How does this set the stage for the tragedy that follows?

The man of God story also helps set the scene for what follows.

*What are this guy’s strengths? What is his downfall?

The Adonijah/Jeroboam relationship is also important to what follows.

*How would the presence of a man like Adonijah have affected political affairs in Israel?  Are there drawbacks to having men claiming to be prophets around?

*In the view of the author of I Kings, how does God intervene in human affairs, particularly political affairs?  Are their any truly miraculous occurrences in this book?

Note a great theme of this book: religion is essential to the functioning of a state—but what does the state do to religion to get what it wants!

Note that all the kings here are religious. Very religious. Is this true of most political figures?  Of political figures today today? Most of the kings here want the support of the God of Israel or the appearance of his support. Why?

In addition to the God of Israel, they’d just love to have the support, or the appearance of support, of other gods as well.  Why?

*Why are the Israelites so quick to return to the worship of Baal?  What are the consequences of their doing so?

*  Does it seem to you that I Kings is written by the same man who wrote I and II Samuel?  What are the similarities and differences between the books?  What are the author’s sources?

*How has the author arranged his material? Why this arrangement? How else could it have be