The First Book of Kings - Introduction
First and Second Kings are a single book in Hebrew, related to 1 and 2 Samuel and the whole “Deuteronomic history” (see Introduction to 1 Sam. ). The establishment of David's dynasty and the building of Solomon's temple bring to a completion the LORD's work of establishing Israel in Canaan (1 Kgs. chs. 1–10 ).
Israel's prosperity has a condition, however: that the LORD's commandments be carefully obeyed. Hence, the rest of Kings tells how disaster finally came upon the Israelite kingdoms through their failure to meet that condition. While individual kings were guilty of various offenses, two particular violations of the LORD's cultic requirements condemned the two kingdoms. In the Northern Kingdom of Israel, the violation was the “sin” of Jeroboam I, namely, his establishment of the cult of the golden calves at Bethel; this constituted a worship of the LORD, but an improper one (see 1 Kgs. 12.25–33; 2 Kgs. 17.21–23 ). In Judah, the violation was permitting the local sanctuaries, called the shrines, to continue after the temple was built (see, e.g. 1 Kgs. 3.2–3; 22.41–43 ).
First Kings opens with the conclusion (chs. 1–2 ) of the narrative of the succession to David's throne; earlier parts of that same source are in 2 Sam. chs. 9–20 . At different points some other literary sources are referred to: “the annals of Solomon” (1 Kgs. 11.41 ), “the annals of the kings of Israel” ( 14.19 ), and “the annals of the kings of Judah” ( 14.29 ). Data from these annals are given in regular formulas for each king (see e.g. 14.21–22; 15.25–26 ). Also drawn upon, without explicit reference, were various traditions about the history of the temple (e.g. 6.2–36; 2 Kgs. 12.4–16; 16.10–18 ) and collections of prophetic legends (e.g. 1 Kgs. chs. 13; 17–19; 2 Kgs. chs. 2–8; 18.17–20.19 ). Also, the Deuteronomic historians contributed speeches and reflections in their distinctive style (e.g. 1 Kgs. 8.14–61; 2 Kgs. 17.7–23 ).
A “first edition” of these materials may have been composed during Josiah's reign, before his death (609 B.C.E.). The point of that edition would have been to show that the previous history of the kings justified Josiah's religious reform (see 2 Kgs. 22.3–23.24 ). Later (about 550 B.C.E.), after the kingdom of Judah had fallen, a “second edition” of Kings, extending the account, was incorporated into the larger Deuteronomic history.