Session 8: 1 & 2 Kings
By the end of this session you should be able to:
intelligently discuss a range of texts presenting different views of Ancient Israelite kingship
demonstrate a clear knowledge of different biblical understandings of monarchy and how they relate to wider themes and traditions within the Bible and to different periods of Israelite history
demonstrate an understanding of the main themes of the books of 1 & 2 Kings.
Blessed are you Lord our God,
for you come to us and seek to make your home in us.
As we study now, let our eyes and our ears be open to you
let our hearts find their rest and their joy in you
that we may grow in grace and live to your glory.
Blessed are you, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.
In this session we continue on our journey through the OT timeline by examining the books of 1 & 2 Kings. It takes us to around 597 BCE. Watch the video overview of 1 & 2 Kings and note down in your reflective learning journal anything that strikes you.
You can find the Bibledex overviews of both books in the Resources section if you would like to watch them but this optional.
Monarchy in Ancient Israel
The monarchy in Israel was the cause of a great deal of trouble for the nation. This stemmed from the tension between Covenant theology and royal ideology, in other words the differences between serving God and serving the King, God's anointed. Throughout the Deuteronomistic History there are descriptions of different kings and their attitudes to the law of Yahweh. This is important because the Mosaic Covenant (Sinai) is between God and the people, the Davidic covenant is between God and the King, so how kings behave affects the whole nation. Particularly problematic for both kingdoms are those kings who fail to ‘act with justice and righteousness’, not obeying the command to ‘do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place’ (Jeremiah 22:3).
Instead they allow worship of false gods, ‘Ba’als’, setting up high places, and they accumulate wealth at the expense of their people. This is clearly in direct contravention of Yahweh’s laws and will result in the downfall of the kingdoms (Jeremiah 22:5). It all started with Solomon whose multitudinous foreign wives led him to apostasy and this is given as the reason for the kingdom being taken away from Solomon’s son which ultimately resulted in the divided kingdom (1 Kings 11:1-12).
An interesting contradiction is found in the story of Solomon: in 1 Kings 5:13 it states that Solomon “conscripted forced labour out of all of Israel” yet in 1 Kings 9:20-22 the narrator emphatically states that “of the Israelites Solomon made no slaves”. The Deuteronomic redactor (editor) allows this contradiction to stand.
Hayes states that ”Monarchy is at best unnecessary and at worst a rejection of Yahweh” (2012, p216). What do you think about this?
Make notes on your thoughts for discussion in your reflective learning journal.
The kings of Israel and Judah, whether good or bad (download a chart showing these from the Resources section) in the end do not bring prosperity, peace and stability to the nation as it had hoped. Rather, as Hayes notes, the Deuteronomistic Historian seems to be at pains to point out that they “are thoroughly human and in no way divine, subject to sin and error. This will be important in establishing the Deuteronomistic claim that the nation's kings were responsible for bringing down Yahweh's punishment upon the nation.” (2012, p215).
The theology of the Deuteronomistic Historian is summed up in 1 Kings 9:8-9 : “Why has the Lord done such a thing to this house and this land?” the reply gets to the point quickly “Because they have forsaken the Lord their God … and embraced other gods, worshipping them and serving them.” (Birch et al, 2006, p258)
Spotlight on Doctrine
At the beginning of the Nicene Creed is the phrase 'God the Father Almighty'. This is a statement declaring that God is the absolute ruler, above and beyond any and all earthly rulers. This idea is prevalent in today's session, along with the clear statement that earthly rulers will always cause problems. We will explore this further in the sessions on Prophecy next.
Spotlight on Spirituality
For some Christians, and indeed people of other faiths, the idea that God is 'supreme ruler' and 'wrathful King' is repugnant. Often, in such spiritualities, God is described as 'Ground of all being' rather than 'Lord' or 'King' or even 'Almighty'. Why do you think this is and what implications does it have for their spirituality and yours?
Spend some time prayerfully thinking about what you have discovered in this session. What are the most significant things for you? How might you use what you have learned in your own faith journey? Write this down in your learning journal and also email it to the Module Leader.
Blessed are you, Lord our God, all things come from you:
from you come our life, this world and all that we have and are.
Teach us to love and respect your creation and give glory to you.
Blessed are you, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Amen
Something Practical To Do
Look around your church building and listen to the words of the service (including hymns, intercessions etc). Are there any references to God as ruler? Where do they appear?
OR think about rulers in our world today. Can you see some of the problems of the OT Kings reflected in the the way countries are led, especially our own?