THE FIRST BOOK OF THE KINGS,
COMMONLY CALLED THE THIRD BOOK OF THE KINGS.
THE two books of Samuel, as they relate the original of the royal government in Saul, and of the royal family in David, are an introduction to the two books of Kings. These two books give us an account of David’s successor, Solomon; of the division of his kingdom, and of the several kings of Israel and Judah, down to the captivity, including the space of 417 years. It cannot certainly be determined who it was that collected the history of these two books, as they are now come to our hands. The opinion of those learned men who ascribe this work to Ezra, as it is, indeed, without any absolute objection against it, so has it not any clear demonstration to raise it above a probable conjecture. But however that be, what is sufficient for us, these books plainly appear to have been collected out of the ancient and undoubted records of the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah. That such records, or annals, were really written in every king’s reign, is not only highly credible, as it was agreeable to the general usage of the eastern monarchies, but is very evident also, from innumerable passages in these books themselves, compared with those of the Chronicles, and other parts of Scripture; wherein (besides what might be written by historians or record-keepers appointed by the several kings themselves) we find the chief transactions of many particular reigns drawn up by such prophets as lived in, and were witnesses of them. Thus, the acts of David were written by Samuel, Nathan, and Gad, 1 Chronicles 29:29; the life of Solomon by Nathan, Ahijah, and Iddo, 2 Chronicles 9:29; that of Rehoboam by Shemaiah and Iddo; that of Uzziah, and a great part, if not the whole of Hezekiah’s, by Isaiah. And, to name no more, the principal matters relating to Jehoiakin and Zedekiah stand incorporated in the prophecy of Jeremiah. These several larger memoirs are what go under the name of The Books of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel or Judah, so often mentioned and referred to in these writings of the kings. For that those chronicles are not intended of the two books of Chronicles which we now have, is most clear even from this alone, that many transactions referred to in the books of the Kings, are so far from being found more fully related in our Chronicles, that most of them are more short than those in the Kings, and some of them not found there at all. But the books of both Kings and Chronicles do refer us, for several larger accounts, to these writings of the seers or prophets; which were the original large Chronicles, whereof those which we now have are but abbreviations. It is sufficient, therefore, to establish the authority and just esteem of these books, that by all circumstances compared together, we find them to have been collected by persons of unsuspected ability, care, and honesty, and handed down to us with as much purity and uncorruptedness in the copies, as the nature of such things could possibly bear. And, undoubtedly, we owe the handing of them down to us in this uncorrupted manner to the especial providence of God, as being intended for our instruction.
A special regard is had in these books to the house of David, from which Christ came. Some of his sons trod in his steps, and their reigns were usually long; whereas those of the wicked kings were usually short: so that the state of Judah (in Israel all the kings were wicked) was not so bad as it would otherwise have been.
In this first book we have, The death of David, chap. 1, 2. The glorious reign of Solomon, chap. 3-10. His defection, chap. 11. The division of the kingdom between Rehoboam and Jeroboam, chap. 12-14. The reigns of Abijah and Asa over Judah, of Basha and Omri over Israel, chap. 15, 16. The history of Elijah, chap. 17-19. Ahab’s success, wickedness, and death, chap. 20-22.