When speaking of this Book, its correct name is "the First Book of Kings" (not the book of the first kings).
Note on some of the names of the kings : Hebrew was originally written without any vowels. Only the consonants were written, and the reader filled in the vowels because he knew what the names were. However, with the passage of the centuries some of the names became ambiguous, and so we sometimes find two similar names for one person eg. Joash & Jehoash, Joram & Jehoram etc. Similar things happened with some Egyptian and Mesopotamian names, eg. Pharaoh Merenptah or Merneptah, Nebuchadnezzar or Nebuchadrezzar. Also, several kings of Damascus were named Ben-Hadad - "son of Hadad" (Hadad was a storm god)
Note on "the sins of Jeroboam" : Jeroboam set up places of worship at Dan and at Bethel, to supplant the Temple at Jerusalem, and told the people that they were not to go to Jerusalem. Jeroboam's places each had a statue of a bull as the center of worship, so breaking the commandment against worshipping graven images. All the subsequent kings of northern Israel continued this tradition, and so are described as "walking in the sins of Jeroboam"
Note on "the High Places" : a high place was a raised circular platform of stones round which worshippers could gather while some worship leader(s) could direct them from the platform. It appears that the "worship" often invloved sacrifice of animals and sexual congress of people. A high place has been excavated in the ruins of Megiddo.
See the History Page for the reigns of the kings of Judah and Israel
Quotations from "ANET" refer to "Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament" edited by James. B. Pritchard
I Kings 1:4 - "the king knew her not" means that he did not have sexual intercourse with her
I Kings 1:8 - for the genealogy of Zadok the Priest, see 1 Chronicles 6:1-8
I Kings 1:33 - Gihon was the spring which served as the water-source for Jerusalem - it flowed through the Kidron valley and into the water-tunnel below the hill on which David's capital was built.
I Kings 1:50 & 2:28 - "the horns of the altar" - the altar was probably a solid block of stone, with a top which had been smoothed flat except for the corners, which projected upwards as points; several such altars have been found in Israel.
I Kings, chapter 2 - "Benaiah the Hit-man" helped settle some old scores.
I Kings 2:17 - to take a member of the previous king's harem was tantamount to making a claim for the throne
I Kings 2:27 - see I Samuel 2:27-36
I Kings 6:1 - this is one of the verses that help us estimate the length of time for the period of the Judges. David had reigned for 40 years, Saul for a period of probably 30-40 years, so the Judges and Joshua probably covered about 400 years. In conjunction with other accounts, and the record of reigning kings, it also helps us to estimate the date of the Exodus (usually given as ca. 1290 BC, though some scholars make a case for 1447 BC).
I Kings, chapter 6 - the exact length of a cubit is debatable, and may have varied from one time period to another. However, it was generally taken to be about the length of a man's forearm, elbow to fingertip, so about 15-17"
I Kings 7:9-10 - there are enormous underground quarries in the limestone under Jerusalem, from which the great stones for the Temple and royal buildings were cut. The photo in the text book (near the section on I Kings 5) does not do justice to the size of the quarries - the pile of chippings in the foreground obscures the entrance and the tunnels beyond. The tunnels are large enough for one to walk upright through most of the length of them.
I Kings 8:8 - "there they are unto this day" - internal evidence (ie. from the text itself) that this passage was written before the Fall of Jerusalem ca. 586 BC
I Kings 9:15-19 - the ruins of Hazor and Megiddo have been uncovered (and are still being excavated). Both of them cover acres of territory, and both have remains of buildings which were hailed as "Solomon's stables" when first discovered. There is now some discussion amongst archaeologists as to whether or not this designation is correct. Having been to Megiddo several times, I too have doubts as to whether or not the buildings called "Solomon's stables" really were for horses : they do have rows of troughs which were for water (they have lips for water to flow out of them), but they are quite close together, and there is not much room between or behind them. One scholar has said they would be better for small house-trained goats. To my mind they would be more suitable for washing - vegetables (?), meat (?), dishes (?) - as part of a kitchen complex which must also have been somewhere near the palace, and which has not yet been located
I Kings 9:26 - Ezion-geber and Eloth (now called Eilat) : Eilat is now a resort town and port, in the extreme south of Israel, on the northern edge of the Gulf of Aqaba. It is the only good natural sea-port in the whole of Israel - the mediterranean coastal strip of Israel is generally unsuitable for sea ports, being shallow and subject to silting-up by the sand flowing into the sea from the Nile to the south. Ezion-geber is the industrial region a few miles inland from Eilat, still with slag-heaps from the mining activites of many centuries.
I Kings 10:1 - "the Queen of Sheba" - Queen of the Sabeans, of the land of Seba - probably in what is now South Yemen, in the Arabian penninsular. The region is now largly desert, but archaeologists have found evidence that there used to be a system of irrigation, and probably a river which dried up centuries ago (due to climatic changes ?). The area is also on what were some of the great caravan routes for the spice trade and for copper ore. The kings of Ethiopia (south of Egypt) claimed descent from a putative son born to Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and took as one of their titles "Lion of Judah".
I Kings 10:28-29 - Solomon set up a trading empire, importing horses and chariots from Egypt (to the south), and exporting them to Syria and the Hitties (in the north).
I Kings 11:40 - "Shishak king of Egypt" - Pharaoh Shoshenq I, founder of the 22nd dynasty of Egypt, who reigned ca. 945 - 924 BC. Shoshenq was younger than Solomon, and after the death of Solomon he not only encouraged Jeroboam and others to rebell against Rehoboam, but also invaded Judah himself (see I Kings 14:25-26, II Chron. 12:2-9). Shoshenq gained control of the Negev (southern desert region of Israel) and captured the town of Arad, then returned to Egypt and had a list of the towns he claimed to have taken carved on the walls of the temple of Amun at Karnak, which is still in existence.
I Kings 12:1 - Rehoboam went to Shechem to be made king - Solomon had been crowned in Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom, and one might expect that Rehoboam would choose that city also. However, there already was tension between the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and the rest of the tribes to the north (see the text-book commentary on chapters 12-14). Shechem was more centrally located, and was at that time one the main religious and political centers north of Jerusalem, so probably Rehoboam was making an attempt to close the breach between north and south.
I Kings 12:5 - "thy father made our yoke grievous" - referring to the taxes and conscrpted labor which Solomon had imposed on the people in order to carry out his building programs (I Kings 4:7-20, 5:13-16)
I Kings 12:15 - the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite - see I Kings 11:29-40. A Shilonite was someone from Shiloh.
I Kings 12:16 - "To your tents, O Israel" and "see to thine own house, David" - idioms meaning roughly "We're outta here" and "Don't tell us what to do, Judah".
I Kings 12:18 - Rehoboam had no more political savvy than to send out a tax-collector.
I Kings 12:26-33 - Jeroboam was afraid that the people would continue to go to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple, and that their allegiance to him would break down. The statues he made were modelled on the gods of the surrounding peoples, and reminiscent of the golden calf of the Exodus. He took on priestly powers to himself, and also ordained non-levites as priests, departing further from the ordinances for worship.
I Kings 13:2 - the prophecy against Bethel - see II Kings 23:15-20
I Kings 13:4 - "his hand . . dried up" - his arm was paralysed.
I Kings 13:18 - we are given no clue as to why the old man of Bethel lied. See the text-book commentary on chapter 13 for one possible interpretation of these events.
I Kings 14:4 - "his eyes were set" - he was blind, his eyes staring ahead, not focussing on objects, often due to cataracts.
I Kings 14:14 - see I Kings 15:29
I Kings 14:15 - see II Kings 17:6-23
I Kings 14:17 - Tirzah was a town near the towns of Shechem and Samaria, and was the royal city for Jeroboam and several of the succeding kings of Israel.
I Kings 14:19 - "the chronicles of the kings of Israel" - not the Biblical books of Chronicles, which give the history of the kings of Judah, but some records of the northern kingdom, which have not survived.
I Kings 14:25 - "Shishak" - see notes on I Kings 11:4
I Kings 15:11 - the "sodomites" were male prostitutes associated with the fertility religions of the Canaanites. They were so called in reference to the people of Sodom (Genesis chapter 9)
I Kings 16:34 - see Joshua 6:26 either the children were killed in accidents at the building site, or else Hiel sacrificed them as part of a pagan ritual.
I Kings 17:1 - Ahab, led on by Jezebel, was worshipping Baal, a storm and fertility god associated with crops, rainfall, and good harvests. This passage probably means that God was showing that He was superior to Baal.
I Kings 18:4 - "hid them by fifty in a cave" - hid two groups of 50, probably in two separate cave systems.
I Kings 18:27 - the gods of the Canaanites and other ancient peoples were thought to behave like human beings - they went on journeys, slept, ate, fought one another, and had sexual intercourse with one another.
I Kings 19:8-9 - Horeb is the mountain in the Sinai range where Moses received the Ten Commandments. To get there from Beersheba Elijah had to cross the desolate baking-hot stony desert of the Sinai peninsular and climb mountains in some of the worst badlands imaginable. At the top of the mountain there is now a small Greek Orthodox Chapel and nearby is a cave with ancient inscriptions, where the monk lives who holds services at the Chapel several times each day.
I Kings 20:37 - an "acted-out" prophecy - Ahab had set free the man who would eventually cause his death (chapter 22)
I Kings 21:3 - the land was regarded as belonging to God, and the family inheritance as a gift from God to be handed on to future generations. According to the law, "land" could not be sold, as it was God's possession - what could be sold was the expected harvests up until the "Year of Jubilee". The year of jubilee came once every 50 years, when the land was to be returned to its original tribal heirs. See Leviticus 25:8 - the Jubilee to be every 50 years; v.10 at the Jubilee bondservants were to be set free, and everyone was to return to the ancestral homelands; v.14-16 the price of a sale was to take into account how many years it was to the Jubilee, because only the harvests were actually sold; v.23 the land itself belonged to God, and was not to be sold; v.24 family members could buy the land back; v.28 at the year of jubilee ownership of the land reverted to the original tribe and family, and people were to return to their ancestral lands. Ahab did not like Naboth's answer, but he understood and accepted it. Jezebel was not an Israelite and had no respect for the religion and law of Israel.
I Kings 21:19 - 22 - for the fulfilment of the prophecy see I Kings 22:34-38, II Kings 9:24-26 & v.30-37
Copyright © 1999 Shirley J. Rollinson, all Rights Reserved
Department of Religion
Portales, NM 88130
Last Updated: May 23, 2008