The Book of 1st Kings

Originally the books First and Second Kings were only one book, giving the
chronicles of the kingdom of Israel, known by the Hebrews by the first word with which
the book opens: W
hamelek Daawid, “now David.”
The division of the books into two was done by the authors of the Septuagint, the
translators of the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek in the third century B.C.
The Fausset’s Bible Dictionary observes: “In the Septuagint the books are called
“the third and fourth of the Kingdoms,” in Vulgate “the third and fourth book of Kings.”
Originally the two were one: Bomberg in his printed editions, 1518, 1549, divided them
into two.”
The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia states about the title: “The
Hebrew title reads, melakhim, ‘kings,’ the division into books being based on the
Septuagint where the Books of Kings are numbered 3rd and 4th, the Books of Kingdoms
(Basileion), the Books of Samuel being numbered respectively 1st and 2nd. The separation
in the Hebrew into 2 Books of Kings dates to the rabbinic Bible of Daniel Bomberg
(Venice, 1516-17), who adds in a footnote, ‘Here the non-Jews (i.e. Christians) begin the
th Book of Kings.’ The Hebrew Canon treats the 2 Books of Samuel as one book, and
the 2 Books of Kings as one. Hence, both the King James Version and the Revised
Version (British and American) read incorrectly, ‘The First Book of Kings,’ even the use
of the article being superfluous.”
J. Sidlow Baxter, in Explore the Book, writes: “They open with the accession of
Solomon, and close with the destruction of Jerusalem. At the beginning we see the temple
built. At the end we see the temple burnt. The two books together cover a period of about
four hundred years. As to their authorship, scholars are in no doubt that “the language of
the two books” and their “unity of purpose” point to “a single writer.” … Jewish tradition
says he was Jeremiah the prophet. This tradition cannot be accepted as conclusive, yet
neither can it be easily refuted. Indeed there is much in its favor. Or course, Jeremiah
would make use of documents already existing (I Kings xi. 41; xiv. 29, etc); and after
him redactors would make minor contributions to the eventual completeness of the work:
but substantially the work is that of one writer, and that writer was probably the aged
The Pulpit Commentary observes: “That the two books … are really one is proved
by the strongest internal evidence. Not only is there no break between them — the
separation at … 1 Kings 22:53 being so purely arbitrary and artificial that it is actually
made haphazard in the middle both of the reign of Ahaziah and of the ministry of Elijah
— but the unity of purpose is conspicuous throughout. Together they afford us a
continuous and complete history of the kings and kingdoms of the chosen people. And
the language of the two books points conclusively to a single writer. While there are no
indications of the manner of speech of a later period, no contradictions or confusions
such as would arise from different writers, there are many phrases and formulae, tricks of
expression, and turns of thought, which show the same hand and mind throughout the
entire work, and effectually exclude the idea of a divided authorship.”
I Kings
© 2014 John Schultz. All rights reserved.
Date of writing:
About the date of writing, The Pulpit Commentary states: “The date of the
composition of the Kings can be fixed, with much greater facility and certainty than that
of many portions of Scripture, from the contents of the Books themselves. It must lie
somewhere between B.C. 561 and B.C. 588; that is to say, it must have been in the latter
part of the Babylonian captivity. It cannot have been before B.C. 561, for that is the year
of the accession of Evil-Merodach, whose kindly treatment of Jehoiachin, “in the year
that he began to reign,” is the last event mentioned in the history. Assuming that this is
not an addition by a later hand, which we have no reason to think is the case, we have
thus one limit — a maximum of antiquity — fixed with certainty. And it cannot have
been after B.C. 538, the date of the return under Zerubbabel, as it is quite inconceivable
that the historian should have omitted to notice an event of such profound importance,
and one too which had such a direct bearing on the purpose for which the history was
penned — which was partly, as we have already remarked, to trace the fulfillment of 2
Samuel 7:12-16, in the fortunes of David’s house — had that event occurred at the time
when he wrote. We may safely assign this year, consequently, as the minimum date for
the composition of the work.”
It is interesting to observe that The Book of Kings does not open with the
beginning of the kingdom, which would have been at Saul’s ascension to the throne in
about 1053 B.C.
Actually, the first four verses of the first chapter deal with David in the last days
of his life, which ought to have been part of Second Samuel.