Week 15 – God’s Messengers

Scripture Reading:  1 Kings 17-19; 2 Kings 2, 4, 6; Amos 1, 3-5, 9; Hosea 4-5, 8-9, 14

Significant Moments in The Story

Elijah challenges Baal and his prophets on Mt. Carmel – 1 Kings 18:17-40

God reveals Himself to Elijah on Mt. Horeb – 1 Kings 19

Elijah carried up by the chariot of fire – 2 Kings 2

Elisha saves Israel from attack from Aram – 2 Kings 6

Key Themes

A chain of bad kings in Israel

After Solomon’s death and the split of the nation of Israel into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, the Biblical narrative becomes an interweaving of stories of the reigns of the kings in the two kingdoms.  Each king is judged within the Scripture based on their own faithfulness to God and how they lead the people to worship the one God.  The kings of the northern kingdom of Israel are judged most harshly, beginning with Jeroboam, who built golden calves for his people to worship so that they would not travel to Judah and Jerusalem to worship.  After Jeroboam came Nadab (1 Kings 15:25-31), Baasha (1 Kings 15:32-16:6), Elah (1 Kings 16:8-14), Zimri (1 Kings 16:15-20), Omri (1 Kings 16:21-28), and Ahab, who is prominent in the stories of Elijah.  Under each king, Israel grows more and more distant from God, causing God to call out individuals to bring messages of conviction and warning to the kings and to the people.

The prophets

Though we have seen other individuals (such as Samuel and Nathan) who have been identified as prophets, Elijah is the first of what might be considered the prophetic movement that makes up such a large part of the Old Testament.  Whereas earlier prophets seemed to have strong connections with the king and his court, Elijah and those prophets that follow after him often stand outside of the royal palace with a message not only for the king but for all of the people.  We often associate the message of the prophets with predictions of the future.  However, the main theme of the prophets was to point out Israel’s sins, to express God’s anger at Israel’s unfaithfulness, and to call Israel back to a right relationship with God before their choices led to horrible consequences.  As opposed to the former prophets who were often welcomed into the king’s presence, many of the prophets like Elijah and those who followed after him would be rejected and even hunted by the kings who sat on the throne.


Background Information


Very little is known about Elijah prior to his abrupt introduction in 1 Kings 17:1.  We know that he was from Gilead in the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  How he came to be called as a prophet is unknown.  His prophetic work took place during the reigns of King Ahab and his son Ahaziah.

Elijah’s prophetic ministry centered on combating the worship of Baal in Israel.  This particular Baal worship, according to 1 Kings, had been introduced into Israel by Ahab’s wife Jezebel, who was from Tyre.  According to 2 Kings 10:18, Ahab offered Baal “small service”, perhaps indicating that he did not completely abandon the worship of Yahweh.  The Anchor Bible Dictionary points out that all 3 of Ahab’s sons’ names contained a form of the divine name of Yahweh.  However, he clearly allowed and participated in the worship of other gods besides Yahweh, a direct breaking of the covenant.  In 1 Kings 18:21, Elijah asks the people, “How long will you go limping with two different opinions?”  Elijah’s prophetic message was centered on proclaiming that Yahweh was the one and only God.  Perhaps the best summary of his teaching comes in the prayer he prays on Mt. Carmel in 1 Kings 18:36:  “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding.  Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”

In 1 Kings 18, Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to a contest.  A famine has existed over the land for some time as punishment for Israel’s lack of complete devotion to God.  Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to meet him on top of Mt. Carmel to see whose god can bring fire down upon on altar for a sacrifice.  The challenge is intended to not only reveal God’s superiority but to reveal the foolishness of any other god.  Indeed, the portrayal of the prophets of Baal is comical, and Elijah himself mocks them and Baal.  In short, Elijah is trying to reveal the idiocy of following any god other than Yahweh, the God of Israel.

In 2 Kings 2:11, we are told that Elijah is carried into heaven by a whirlwind.  Because Elijah did not die, over time an expectation grew that Elijah would someday return.  The prophet Malachi would give voice to this expectation in Malachi 4:5-6, when he announced that God would send Elijah before the day of the LORD.  When Elijah came, Malachi said, he would cause the people to repent and turn back to God.  This expectation of Elijah’s return would become an integral part of the gospel accounts of Jesus, as Elijah is seen on the mount of Transfiguration and John the Baptist is identified with Elijah.



In 1 Kings 19, a depressed Elijah meets with God on top of Mt. Horeb.  There God gives Elijah instructions, which includes anointing Elisha as his successor.  It is Elisha who will ultimately carry out the instructions that God gives to Elijah.

Elisha seems to have come from wealth, based on what we read in 1 Kings 19:19-21.  The fact that he had twelve oxen and that he throws a lavish feast for the people of his town before he leaves with Elijah indicates that he was from a family of means in the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

Elisha’s prophetic work begins at the end of the reign of King Ahab and spans the reigns of Ahaziah, Joram, Jehu, Jehoahaz, and Joash.  All of these kings except for Jehu are remembered as evil for failing to turn to the worship of the one God.  Jehu is praised for wiping out the worship of Baal from Israel.  However, he failed to tear down the golden calves that King Jeroboam had built.

Though we see Elijah perform several miracles, the Biblical account of Elisha focuses heavily on the miracles that he performs.  Many of the miracles are miracles of provision or healing, revealing God as caring about the needs of people – providing for the family of the Shunammite woman, removing the poison from a pot of stew, feeding a town facing famine, curing an Aramean general, even recovering an ax head lost in the river.  Elisha’s miracles make all the more heartbreaking the overall turning from God that we see taking place under each of the kings of Israel.  While God’s heart is open to his people, their hearts are becoming more closed to God and to His prophet Elisha.

As a prophet, Elisha also instigates the revolution that would ultimately take down the family of Ahab.  In 2 Kings 9, Elisha sends a young prophet to anoint Jehu, a commander in the army, as the new king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  Following this event, Jehu leads a revolt that kills King Joram (son of Ahab) of Israel, King Ahaziah of Judah, and Jezebel.  As Samuel and Nathan before him and as Isaiah and Jeremiah after him, Elisha stands as a prophet whose message is not just a spoken word but taking an active part in shaping Israel’s history according to the will of God.



Jeroboam II would follow Joash to the throne of Israel.  His reign in Israel would be long and peaceful, and Israel would know expansion and prosperity that it would never know again in its history under Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:23-27).  Many within Israel seem to have interpreted this peace and prosperity as a sign of God’s favor, perhaps because they have given extravagant support to the official worship of Yahweh.

Amos was a shepherd from the small Judean village of Tekoa who God calls to come to the Northern Kingdom with a message of denunciation.  The two primary themes of Amos’ message are justice and righteousness – “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).  When Amos speaks of righteousness, he is speaking of the willingness to act with benevolence towards another person. Justice is, therefore, the willingness of a society to treat all people with righteousness, not just a few.  According to Amos, righteousness and justice are lacking in Israel, a sign that they are failing to live up to the expectations of a people in a covenant relationship with God (Amos 3:1-2).  Amos lays a harsh blame upon the priests of Israel, believing that the worship life of Israel is calling the people to complacency rather than righteousness and justice (Amos 4:1-5).

Amos mentions specifically Bethel and Gilgal as the root of Israel’s sins (Amos 4:4, 5:5).  Bethel and Gilgal had special significance for Israel’s covenant relationship with God.  Bethel was where God appeared to Jacob in a dream and promised to give him the land on which he slept (the vision of the heavenly stairway, Genesis 28:13).  Gilgal was where Joshua and the children of Israel established a monument of 12 stones to remind later generations that God had dried up the waters of the Jordan River so that Israel could cross into the Promised Land (Joshua 4:20-24).  These two places had become centers for the worship for God, yet it seems that the worship that is taking place there is not worship that calls the people to be God’s people.  The issue for Amos is not so much the worship of other gods as worship that does not provoke the justice and righteousness that should be expected of God’s people.



Though Hosea’s ministry probably took place simultaneous to or soon after the prophetic ministry of Amos, the circumstances of his ministry and message are very different.  Unlike Amos, Hosea was from the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  Little is known about Hosea’s personal life other than the details of his marriage and children that are a part of his prophetic message.  While he addresses Israel’s worship life as Amos did, his concern is much more for the rituals of worship.

Hosea’s message is filled with language of sexuality, prostitution, and adultery.  This is very intentional, as Hosea is proclaiming that Israel, in how it worships, is betraying God (Hosea 4:1).  The problem may not be the worship of gods other than Yahweh; instead, it seems that Israel is trying to worship God with rituals taken from the worship of Baal, including temple prostitution and drunken orgies (Hosea 4:10-14).

Though the promise of grace and restoration is not unique to Hosea, it is perhaps most eloquently stated by Hosea.  The language of betrayal and adultery conveys both the depth of God’s anger (Hosea 11:1-7, 13:1-16) and the power when that anger relents because of God’s love (Hosea 11:8-11, 14:1-9).  Hosea’s message is that mankind’s sin does not wipe away God’s eternal love.


Some Questions That Might Come Up

What is it exactly that is taking place on Mt. Horeb in 1 Kings 19?

Elijah is fleeing for his life from Jezebel, who has sworn to kill him after he slaughters the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18).  Elijah is praying and asking God to kill him.  Instead, God gives him something to eat and drink and tells him to go to Mt. Horeb to meet with Him.

On the mountain, Elijah is told that the LORD is going to appear to him.  Soon after, there is a great wind, an earthquake, and a fire, but the Scripture says the LORD was not present in any of these events.  This is significant because these occurrences were often signs of God’s presence. In Genesis 1:2, we are told that a “wind from God” moved over the face of the waters.  In Exodus 3, the burning bush is a sign of God’s presence before Moses.  In Exodus 19:18, Mt. Sinai shakes and trembles as God appears to Israel on the mountain.  That none of these indicates the presence of God is defying of expectation and a cue that we need to keep alert for God’s presence to show up in new and unexpected ways.

Depending on what translation you are reading, Elijah next hears either “a still small voice” or “the sound of sheer silence”.  The second translation is the more accurate translation of the Hebrew; however, the text would indicate to us that Elijah hears something.  It could be that it was a gentle whisper or perhaps the text is indicating that what Elijah hears is what we could describe as “the calm after the storm”.  In any case, the text is contrasting the roar and loudness of the wind, earthquake and fire with the stillness that now follows and is the indicator of God’s presence.

This text refuses to lock us in to only looking for God in certain ways and actions.  God can work and appear in the grand, majestic and loud or in the still, hushed and quiet.


Additional Resources

http://www.vtaide.com/gleanings/Kings-of-Israel/kings.html – a listing of the kings of Israel and Judah


Week 14 – A Kingdom Torn in Two

Scripture Readings:  1 Kings 12-16

Major Themes


Right Worship

Tearing down of “high places”

Idolatry (Golden Calves, Asherim)


Political Struggle

Jeroboam v Rehoboam

Israel v Judah


Obedience to/Fulfillment of God’s Word


Man of God


Man of God


          Who is this man of God? (13:1)

          “Alter, Alter!” – Why does he prophecy against the alter, and not against Jeroboam? (v2)

Where does he go wrong? (v21)


Jeroboam’s Downfall/Israel’s Downfall


  • Jeroboam as fulfillment of Samuel’s prophecy (1 Samuel 8:10-22) – representative of the failure of the kings to bring lasting peace
  • Jeroboam’s parallels with Saul and David
    • Loss God’s favor (11:31, 14:7f)
    • Loss of child (14:17)

Week 13 – The King Who Had It All

Scripture Reading:  1 Kings 1-8, 10-11; 2 Chronicles 5-7; Proverbs 1-3, 6, 20-21

Significant Moments in The Story

Solomon anointed as King David’s successor – 1 Kings 1

The death of King David – 1 Kings 2

The wisdom of Solomon – 1 Kings 3

Solomon’s building programs – 1 Kings 5-7, 2 Chronicles 5-7

The dedication of the Temple – 1 Kings 8

Solomon’s failures – 1 Kings 11

Key Themes

Sacred space

The building and dedication of the Temple is the defining achievement of Solomon’s reign as king.  We are given tremendous details about the ornateness and grandeur of the Temple structure.  However, we cannot forget that the importance of the Temple was understood not in the building materials but in the belief that the Temple was where God lived and ruled.  The space of the Temple captured the idea that God intends to dwell among His people.  As we move forward, we will see that there will be times where the space itself or the rituals that take place in it will seem to become more important than the understanding of the presence of God.  Today, we can struggle with making our church buildings or our church programs more important than communion with the living God.  In his words of dedication, Solomon reminded the people that the Temple was for those who had sinned, those who are sinned against, those who have experienced loss, those who are experiencing trials, those who are strangers, and those who find themselves embattled.  It is for them not because of the building itself but because it provides an opportunity for individuals and the community to come and pour their hearts out to God.  It is space to worship and praise the Creator of the universe for His sake, not for the sake of the building.


Solomon is still remembered today as wise.  However, what is meant by “the wisdom of Solomon”?  There are various understandings of wisdom that we see in Solomon’s story.  On the one hand, we see Solomon display wisdom in terms of his ability to consolidate his power as a king and form important alliances.  Solomon shows shrewdness, cunning, and the ability to build relationships that bring fortune and glory to Israel.  He also seems to be a good administrator, overseeing a tremendous building campaign that results in the Temple, a royal home, as well as several other structures.  In addition, he efficiently organizes a kingdom larger than any ruler in Israel has ever known and proves to be a good adjudicator of legal cases.

A second understanding of wisdom emerges from the Proverbs, traditionally associated with Solomon.  In short, wisdom here is defined as the ability to seek out God and His work in everyday life and apply the truths of God and His word so that one lives in faithfulness and righteousness.  One could argue that Solomon’s excellence in the first area of wisdom ultimately compromised his wisdom in this second area.

“Except that…”

1 Kings 3:3 says, “Solomon showed his love for the LORD by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.”  Solomon’s life is a reminder that faithfulness is not a goal where our objective should be anything less than 100% success.  God’s righteousness is not defined by being good and holy most of the time.  Jesus himself said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. … Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:19, 48).


Background Information

Adonijah’s claim to the throne – 1 Kings 1:5-2:25

It would seem, by age, that Adonijah is the presumptive heir to the throne.  Adonijah was born to David during that time when Saul was seeking to kill David.  Adonijah was the fourth son born to David during this time.  The oldest son, Amnon, was killed by Absalom because of his rape of Tamar.  We know nothing of David’s second son other than the mention of his birth in 2 Samuel 3:3 and 1 Chronicles 3:1.  Some suggest he may have died in childhood.  The third son, Absalom, was killed by Joab after he rose in revolt against David.

It is interesting that, unlike David and Saul, Solomon is raised up to the throne seemingly less by divine decree or prophetic act and more by political intrigue and manipulation.  There seems to have been some uncertainty as to who exactly was the rightful heir, and Adonijah decides to start acting like the king so as to remove any rival claimants to the throne.  However, Nathan and Bathsheba act quickly to have the people proclaim Solomon the king.

In response to Nathan and Bathsheba’s plotting, Adonijah seeks to claim the throne in a more roundabout way.  Using Bathsheba as his go-between, Adonijah asks that Abishag the Shunammite, a nurse and concubine to David, be given to him as his wife.  Solomon sees through the request, though, as an attempt by Adonijah to identify himself as the successor to David in marriage and thus on the throne.

The high places – 1 Kings 3:2

The high places were local shrines or altars.  In the Old Testament, the high places will be associated with the worship of other gods, though at this point we should not necessarily assume such a connection.  It is possible that some of these local shrines were being used to worship Israel’s God but were shrines left over from the Canaanite peoples who inhabited the land before Israel and who worshiped other gods.  In 1 Kings 11:7-8, we are told that Solomon built “high places”, or altars, to the foreign gods that were worshiped by his wives.

Solomon’s governors – 1 Kings 4:7-19

Up until now, the indication is that the tribal leaders served as local governors in the different regions of Israel.  However, Solomon relies on his own appointed governors to manage the regions of the country, and these governors did not necessarily have any tribal connections to the regions to which they were appointed.  Each region was required to provide food for the king and his household for one month out of the year.  It was the governor’s responsibility to insure that each region provided what was expected.  There is some speculation that this organization and taxation may have contributed to the civil unrest at the end of Solomon’s reign.  Another contributing factor may have been the forced labor that Solomon used for his grand building programs (1 Kings 5:13)

How long did it take? – 1 Kings 6:38-7:1

It is interesting to note that Solomon took 7 years to build the Temple and thirteen to build his palace.  The Temple was built so close to the palace that there is some speculation that Solomon was attempting to make the Temple an annex of the palace, symbolizing that the religious life of Israel was under the control of the king.

Solomon’s wives – 1 Kings 11:1-3

Solomon is perhaps as known for his numerous wives as he is his wisdom.  700 wives?  300 concubines?  It should be noted that royal marriages in ancient times were often as much about politics as anything else.  It was not unusual for a king to give his daughter in marriage to another king as a sign of peace and agreement between the two countries.  Thus, Solomon’s large number of wives may say more about his ability as a head of state than anything else.  However, the Deuteronomic author of 1 Kings clearly believes that the reason for the troubles at the end of Solomon’s reign are to be found in his intermarriage with foreign women and his providing for the worship of foreign gods within Israel.


The book of Proverbs has traditionally been attributed to Solomon based on 1 Kings 4:32 as well as references within the book of Proverbs itself.  While it is certainly likely that many of these proverbs came from the time of Solomon, not necessarily all of the contents of the book are to be attributed to Solomon and some clearly came from later times, perhaps even after the Babylonian exile.

The book of Proverbs is part of what is often called the Wisdom tradition, which focuses on coping with daily experiences.  Other books associated with the Wisdom tradition include Job and Ecclesiastes.  In the case of Proverbs, the emphasis is on understanding through observation and learning how faith is made manifest in day to day life.  The Proverbs echo in many ways a Deuteronomic mindset:  righteousness leads to happiness, evil leads to suffering.  However, the proverbs are designed specifically to be teaching tools used by older parents/teachers to instruct young people.