11. The Audio Bible - 1 Kings: Old Testament

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David is old and bed-ridden, and his son Adonijah proclaims himself king with the help of David’s commander Joab and the priest, Abiathar. Hearing this news, David instructs the prophet Nathan to anoint David’s son, Solomon, as king. The people rally behind Solomon in a grand procession to the royal throne. Before dying, David charges Solomon to remain faithful to God and his laws. Solomon solidifies his claim to the throne by killing Joab, Adonijah, and the remaining dissenters from David’s reign. He also makes an alliance with Egypt by marrying the pharaoh’s daughter.

Because Solomon carefully obeys God’s laws, God appears to him in a dream and offers to grant the new king one wish. Solomon asks for wisdom to govern with justice and to know the difference between right and wrong. God is so impressed with Solomon’s humble request that he promises Solomon the additional gifts of wealth and long life. As a result, Solomon lives in great opulence and his empire stretches from Egypt to the Euphrates River. He earns international fame for his wise sayings and scientific knowledge.

With his vast resources, Solomon builds an elaborate temple to God as well as a palace for himself in Jerusalem. Construction begins exactly four hundred and eighty years after Israel’s exodus from Egypt. Solomon conscripts thousands of laborers for the work and imports materials from neighboring countries. The Temple is lined with gold and features large, hand-sculpted angels and pillars. Solomon places the Ark of the Covenant inside, and all of Israel gathers for the dedication. After sacrificing herds of animals on the altar, Solomon prays for God’s blessing on the Temple. God appears to Solomon and promises to dwell in the Temple so long as Solomon and the Israelites are obedient to his laws. If they are not, God will remove his presence from the Temple, destroying both the temple and the nation.

Solomon’s success continues until he marries many foreign women. They influence him to worship and erect altars to foreign deities. God is infuriated and tells Solomon that he will dismember the kingdom. God will tear away all of the tribes from Solomon’s kingdom except for one, Judah. God allows the tribe of Judah to remain since Solomon is David’s son. Following God’s declaration, a prophet meets one of Solomon’s officials, Jeroboam, with a cloak torn into twelve pieces, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. The prophet hands Jeroboam ten of the twelve pieces and explains that God has chosen him to rule these selected tribes as Israel’s new king.

Solomon dies, and his son Rehoboam assumes the throne. Led by Jeroboam, the people gather before the young king to request that Rehoboam treat them more kindly than Solomon did during his reign. Rehoboam is headstrong and refuses, threatening to punish and enslave the people. The Israelites unite in rebellion, cursing the tribe of Judah and eluding Rehoboam’s attempts to forcefully subdue them. They head north, where they crown Jeroboam king of Israel in the city of Shechem. Israel splits into two kingdoms: the kingdom of Israel in the north, and the kingdom of Judah in the south.

To distinguish the new, separate kingdom of Israel from the old kingdom in Jerusalem, Jeroboam erects altars and shrines to golden calves throughout the northern land. The Israelites worship the idols, and the Levite priests, formerly devoted to God, serve them as well. One day, Jeroboam’s son is ill, and his wife approaches a prophet to seek guidance. The prophet warns that Jeroboam’s household will be destroyed and that Israel will eventually lose control of the promised land because of Jeroboam’s abhorrent practices. One generation later, Jeroboam’s entire family is slaughtered when another Israelite takes the throne by force.

Meanwhile, King Rehoboam also erects altars and shrines to idols in Judah, even authorizing male and female prostitution in these shrines. The two kingdoms, northern and southern, continue to fight each other. After Rehoboam and Jeroboam die, the narrator recounts the story of all the succeeding kings in each kingdom, summarizing each king’s reign by whether he does good or evil. Almost all of Israel’s northern kings commit great evil, expanding on the practices of their fathers. Some of the southern kings in Jerusalem try to revive obedience to God, but none of them bans the worship of foreign gods in Judah.

With the help of his wife Jezebel, Ahab, northern Israel’s most wicked king, spreads cult worship of the god Baal throughout the northern lands. In response, a prophet named Elijah emerges and informs Ahab that God will curse the land with a great drought. Elijah leads a secluded life on the outskirts of civilization. Ravens bring Elijah food and he performs miracles for the local people. After three years of drought, Queen Jezebel begins a campaign to murder all of God’s prophets in the land. Elijah publicly confronts Ahab, demanding that the Israelite people profess allegiance to either God or Baal. The people do not respond. Elijah challenges the priests of Baal to a contest to see whose god can miraculously set an unlit animal sacrifice on fire. Despite animated prayer and self-mutilation, the priests of Baal are unable to ignite their altar. Elijah soaks his altar in water three times, and, when he prays, God engulfs the altar in flames.

Elijah flees from the belligerent Jezebel into the desert. He complains to God that, despite his earnest service, the Israelites continue to be disobedient. God promises to show himself to Elijah. Elijah is surrounded by wind, earthquakes, and fire, but none of these, we are told, is God. Instead, Elijah hears a soft whisper amidst the storm, and he recognizes that this is God. Encouraged, Elijah returns to civilization where he appoints a new man, Elisha, to be his apprentice and to eventually succeed him as prophet.

One day, Ahab and Jezebel steal a man’s vineyard by slandering the man’s name in public until the citizens stone the man. Elijah finds Ahab in the vineyard and declares that because of their murderous deeds, Ahab and Jezebel will die and dogs will lick up their blood. Soon after, King Ahab makes a rare pact with the king of Judah. The two lead their united forces against the Arameans who are occupying Israel’s borders. Ahab is killed and bleeds to death in his chariot. When the chariot is cleaned after battle, dogs gather to lick his blood.

Not long after, Elijah is miraculously taken up into heaven by a flaming chariot, never to return, while Elisha looks on. Elisha assumes Elijah’s role as prophet, acting as a cryptic doomsayer to Israel’s kings while performing miracles for the common folk. Elisha helps a barren woman become pregnant, and when her young son suddenly dies, Elisha brings the boy back to life by lying on top of him. He guides the king of Israel in eluding the Aramean invaders from the north by plaguing the enemy troops with blindness.

Elisha initiates a coup to cut off Ahab and Jezebel’s dynasty by secretly anointing a military commander, Jehu, to overthrow the throne. Jehu descends on the city where the current king, who is Ahab’s son, and Judah’s king are visiting each other. The men of the city rapidly defect to Jehu’s side. Jehu overcomes the kings on horseback and shoots them with an arrow, decrying their witchcraft and idolatry in the process. Entering the city, Jezebel calls out seductively to Jehu from a window. The men of the city throw her out the window, and Jehu’s horses trample her. The dogs eat her dead body, fulfilling Elijah’s prophecy. After killing the rest of Ahab’s family, Jehu invites all the priests of Baal to an assembly and murders them. He wipes out the Baal cult in Israel, but he does not forbid the worship of other gods.

The narrator continues the chronological account of Israel and Judah’s kings. Each of Israel’s kings is more evil than the previous, and Northern Israel gradually loses its territories to Assyrian pressure from the northeast. Assyria finally invades the northern kingdom of Israel entirely and captures the Israelites, removing them to Assyria. God’s presence leaves the people of Israel, and scattered Near-Eastern groups populate the promised land, worshipping their own gods.

A handful of Judah’s kings make a brave attempt at reform in the southern kingdom. Two kings embark on repairing the decaying Temple in Jerusalem. When Hezekiah assumes the throne, he destroys all of the altars and idols in Judah—the first such policy since Rehoboam introduced the idols into the land. With the help of the great prophet Isaiah, Judah thwarts heavy economic and military threats from Assyria. Finally, Judah’s king Josiah directs a national program of spiritual renewal. He reads the Laws of Moses in front of all the people, and the people reaffirm their commitment to God’s covenant, celebrating the Passover for the first time in centuries. Despite these attempts to turn the religious tide in Judah, however, evil rulers regain power after Josiah’s death. The king of Babylon invades the southern kingdom of Israel, burning Jerusalem and destroying the Temple. Like their northern brothers, the people of Judah are exiled, settling in Babylon far away from their homeland.


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