Note that the material here corresponds more to the class breaks rather than the study question break. 

 I Kings 1-11
The Tragical History of Solomon?


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

I Kings, by the way,  looks like a continuation of II Samuel--and it is.  But it isn't be the same author. The author of I and II Samuel wrote (most probably) during the reign of Solomon, sometime before 922 BC.  The author of I and II Kings lived durng the time of the Babylonian captivite (612-539).  Jewish tradition suggests Jeremiah may have been the author--and that's plausible enough. 

But while I and II Kings isn't be the same author, the books are dominated by the same great themes as I and II Samuel, the interaction and potential conflict between personal life and political responsibility and the relationship of religion and politics. Another important theme: how does one deal with the mess left over by a preceding generation—a theme, perhaps, particularly relevant to your generation.  A final theme: the problems of disunity.  Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brother to dwell together in unity, says the Psalmist.  Well, behold how terrible it is is when brothers and cousins are at each other's throats.

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

David had left Israel in good shape, dominating most of the land promised to Abraham.  The Edomites, Ammonites, and Moabites were all subject to Israel.  There are potential problems, though.

David has left Solomon with some bad potential enemies including Hadad the Edomite who had fled to Egypt after Joab slew all the men of Edom, Rezon who had fled from David and becomes king of Damascus, and Jeroboam who had taken refuge in Egypt.

There were also palace problems.  Solomon's position of the throne wasn't completely secure. Note that Adonijah has some solid supporters (including Joab and Abiathar).  Had it not been for Nathan the prophet, Solomom might have died and Adonijah reigned.  Note that, though Solomon initially spares Adonijah, when Adonijah wants Abishag the Shunamite for his wife, he changes his mind: claiming the one member of David's harem a son might have as a wife was a claim to the throne.

Solomon begins his reign by cleaning up some of David's unfinished business, getting rid of of Joab and Shimei.  Looks kind of ugly on David's part to be remembering his grudges, but it's likely enough David knows Solomon's throne won't be secure without putting these men out of the picture.

Solomon proves to be a pretty impressive king, obviously of sufficient stature to be a tragic hero.  Chapters 3 and 4 describe Solomon at his best.  Solomon builds a splendid temple to God, establishing a permanent, central place of worship.  He also builds a lavish palace for himself.

Note the ceremony around the dedication of the temple and the exchange between Solomon and God in Chapter 9.  Certainly Solomon seems on the right track.

Solomon, a man of peace, builds good relationships with Hiram of Tyre and his other neighbors including Egypt.  He furthers trade--and it looks as if the economy is doing really well.

Pretty impressive. But Solomon has a tragic flaw, his weakness for women.  Solomon adds to his glory by supporting a vast number of wives--700 wives and 300 concubines.  Part of this is strategic: the marriages are designed to cement peace treaties with Solomon's neigbors.  Among Solomon's wives: a daughter of Pharaoh. 

But Solomon's wives want temples to their gods, and Solomon is soon building temples to the gods of Amon, Moab, and the rest.  This sows the seeds of many problems.  Potential apostasy is of course a problem.  Also, building these temples is expensive.  Solomon has to raise taxes and resort to forced labor.   This results in some propblems durng Solomon's own life and  real problems during the reign of his son.

God warns Solomon that much of Israel would break away from the house of David, though Judah would remain loyal.  There's a kind of catharis in the way God keeps his promises to David despite his son's apostasy.  There is perhaps also catharsis if one assumes (as the rabbis did) that Ecclesiastes was written in Solomon's old age and shows his repentence.  "Fear God, for that is the whole of man."
After Solomon, tragedy begins to change in nature, a 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.  The "deus ex machina" ending is deliberatly manipulated: it's not a real catharsis at all.  There's a drift toward farce as our characters aren't really of sufficient magnitude.

In some ways, what we get is tragedies of Israel and Judah. Sometimes, the kings themselves (like Ahab) have the potential to be tragic heroes, but now the main protagonists are different: the prophets and men of God as they confront an increasingly corrupt political system.

Note a great theme of the final chapters of I Kings and all of II Kings: 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. Most of the kings here want the support of the God of Israel or the appearance of his support.

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.  Multiculturalism at its best?  Well, we shall see.